On Friday, 31 January, the Filipino hero will step into the Circle at the Mall of Asia Arena to take on the Pakistani athlete at ONE: FIRE & FURY.
Folayang’s opponent is arguably the top mixed martial arts talent to emerge from his country thanks to his undefeated streak of stoppages that took him to The Home of Martial Arts, as well as a pair of wins under the sport’s brightest lights.
He is also unlikely to be fazed by the trip to “Landslide’s” home turf. Mujtaba has twice traveled to the Philippines to face local favorites before, and he recorded victories on both occasions.
Folayang’s fans will still expect him to come away with a victory because of his experience advantage, but he is adamant that he will not underestimate the 26-year-old from Islamabad.
“He’s beaten a couple of Filipinos in the past, and he had a pretty good run before joining ONE,” the Team Lakay representative says.
“He may have the mindset that Filipinos are easy for him to defeat, so his confidence will be way up coming in despite the event happening in Manila. He’s also pretty good on the ground, so I think those will be the threats he will bring to our match.”
The Pakistani warrior is proficient on the mat. All six of his stoppages – five submissions and one TKO – have come after he has taken his opponent down.
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However, Folayang has been tested against some of the most accomplished submission specialists in the game, so he sees no reason to be fazed.
“When we reach the Circle, there’s no room for those concerns,” he says.
“We’ve been in the cage with some of the best strikers and grapplers in the world, so it will be about going there and giving the best performance that we can do no matter who we are tasked to face.
“I’ll naturally lean towards making my strength, which is striking, become his weakness.”
Plus, unlike his compatriots that fell to “Wolverine’s” finishing ability, the 35-year-old from Baguio City believes the support of his Filipino fans in the arena will give him a big advantage.
It will also give him the extra motivation to push for a finish, which has eluded him during his last few contests in the Circle.
“I think it will be a huge help. I never want to disappoint the fans who come and support us in the Mall of Asia Arena,” Folayang adds.
“I want to see all the angles (to win), but getting a TKO or submission is ideal. It’s always there, waiting to happen, but the timing and execution will be critical.”
“Landslide” is also determined to put on a show following an unsatisfactory conclusion to his last bout against Amarsanaa “Spear” Tsogookhuu.
Though he got his hand raised after an impressive performance, it came via technical decision after the bout was cut short in the second round due to an accidental clash of heads.
Until that moment, it looked like Folayang was back to his best. On 31 January, he wants to prove that is the case.
“I feel like there was a lot more I could have shown the last time around, but wasn’t able to because of the abrupt end,” he adds.
“It gives me extra fire heading into this bout to show a more complete performance.”
An eye-catching performance will be essential if Folayang wants to move back toward the top and challenge for the belt for the third time.
However, he realizes there are other athletes ahead of him in the queue to face Christian “The Warrior” Lee, so he plans to take every challenge as it comes until he is in pole position for the gold again.
“It’s like eating bangús (milkfish). You will not enjoy its tastiness unless you take out the bones,” he says.
“This is the first bone that we have to take out in order to get to the tasty part of competing for the World Title once again.”