Don’t call it a comeback.
Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang has been an ever-present figure in ONE Championship, and despite some recent setbacks, he’s confident that he still has the necessary tools to beat anyone in the division.
“Sometimes, the sweetest victory comes in the end for as long as you don’t give up,” Folayang says. “I believe that’s life. We’ve done it in the past – nobody thought I’d ever be a World Champion, but I persevered.”
It’s a matchup that Folayang believes will kick-start another amazing turnaround in his illustrious mixed martial arts career.
“There will be losses and wins, but for as long as you never give up and you keep a strong mind, that’s the key,” he continues.
“The moment I give up, the moment my mind breaks down, that’s the end of me. I have to be tough, no matter the struggles and the failures. For as long as I really want it, then it will be the sweetest victory.”
That sweet victory would come at the expense of Zhang, who took a similar journey through much of his professional career.
Like Folayang in the Philippines, China’s mixed martial arts scene was pretty tame in the early 2000s before “The Warrior” began raising the country’s banner in various international organizations.
After a few years in the United States, the 31-year-old Zhang returned to his home country and competed in Asia for the next six years. During that run, he won 21 fights with 17 of those victories never reaching the final bell.
That’s why the 36-year-old Folayang – who holds a 22-11 record but has dropped five of his last six fights – is leaving no stone unturned at Team Lakay in Baguio City, as he aims to slay the debuting Chinese superstar at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“The preparation has been well. We’ve trained for about six weeks for this match,” the Filipino says.
“We all know the magnitude of this match for my career. It hasn’t been a good stretch so far, so I really have to win this in order to keep floating and get that first win for me this year.”
Another similarity between “Landslide” and “The Warrior” is their powerful striking.
But given that Zhang has also earned submissions in four of his last five victories, the former lightweight king believes his opponent will try to go that route in their matchup.
“Zhang is a striker. [But] if he feels like he has an advantage on the ground, he’ll pursue it. I think that’s his main style. He adjusts well on the fly,” Folayang says.
“I have to be prepared. I think he’ll try to get this match to the ground as much as possible. We’ve been preparing for that, so hopefully, the execution will be much better this time around.”
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With that said, physical preparation is only half the battle for Folayang, who knows that his mentality is just as important.
In fact, the Baguio City native believes the biggest key to winning this fight – and getting his career back on track – starts in his head.
“There are a lot of factors for me in this match, and I think most of it is mental. I have to overcome that,” Folayang says.
“Physically, we can push ourselves, but during those off times when you’re not training, there are a lot of thoughts that spring up – the what-ifs and things like that. Then you’ll hear all these naysayers and ‘experts,’ so you really have to be tough mentally.”
There’s no doubt that “Landslide” has been hearing from the naysayers over the past few months. He remains a widely beloved and respected figure in the Philippines, but that legacy hasn’t stopped many pundits and fans from writing off the rest of his career.
For Folayang, ignoring that talk is the biggest obstacle of all.
“Mentally, of course, you have to shut down those voices. The moment you let that voice in, that’s the time you struggle. Right now, what I need is 100 percent focus. I have to be 100 percent committed in rising up again and winning once more,” he says.
“I think the best thing I can do is to focus and set a positive mindset for myself – that whatever happens, it won’t define me. Never give up, just keep floating, and get closer to where I really want to be.
“The mentality is to win this one. This is a very important fight. This is one of those steps for me to be closer to my goal.”