EXCLUSIVE | Eduard Folayang looks back on his remarkable ONE Championship career

Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon

In 2011, Filipino Wushu specialist Eduard Folayang was invited to headline the debut event from a brand new promotion called ONE Fighting Championship. Folayang was originally booked to fight fellow Filipino Ole Laursen on the card, but was later matched up with streaking Korean A Sol Kwon when Laursen was sidelined with a knee injury. Folayang prevailed despite the opponent change, winning a unanimous decision.

Almost eight years later, Folayang has competed 14 more times for this promotion (which has since dropped the word “Fighting” from its name).

He’s defeated a host of dangerous lightweights from all over the world. He’s fought in a long list of massive Asian cities. He has captured, lost, and recently recaptured the ONE Lightweight title. And now, he’s set to headline the upcoming ONE: A New Era card in Tokyo, Japan, in a rematch with the legendary Shinya Aoki.

As this showdown with Aoki draws ever closer, Eduard Folayang looked back on his fight with A Sol Kwon on the first ONE Championship card.

“It was a great night,” he told BJPenn.com in Tokyo, speaking so calmly and quietly it’s almost difficult to believe that he’s a professional fighter. “I broke my nose, but I got the win. It was the first ONE Championship show, and there was a massive crowd. It’s a very good memory.”

The Team Lakay product added that, even on that first night with ONE Championship, he sensed the promotion was destined for big things.

“I knew that ONE Championship could be as big as this,” he added. “They took care of all their athletes. They managed the promotion well.”

Since that first ONE Championship fight, Folayang has been incredibly successful. There have, of course, been setbacks. Some worse than others.

“Maybe my loss against Timofey [Nastyukhin],” he said, recalling his worst moment in the ONE cage. “That one still stings for me.”

Luckily, Folayang’s setbacks have been outnumbered by massive victories. His favorite, he says, was his 2016 knockout defeat of Aoki, which kickstarted his first reign as the ONE Lightweight World Champion.

“I think my win against Shinya,” he said. “There was a lot of people that said I could never win at that time. I proved them wrong.”

It’s already been a remarkable journey for Eduard Folayang, and now, here he is in the glimmering megacity of Tokyo, gearing up to defend his title on the biggest ONE Championship card to date.

“It’s great,” he said. “I never thought I’d be the one headlining this event. I’m very happy about it.”

“I never thought this would happen. I just worked on making my skills sharper.”

As his title fight with Shinya Aoki looms on the horizon, Folayang says he is feeling well-prepared. He’s confident that his training will carry him to another win. In fact, he believes he can knock Aoki out again.

“Of course, I’m ready,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it will be the same win as the last time.”

While Folayang stands out as one of the most accomplished fighters in ONE Championship history, he assures his journey is far from over.

“The lightweight division is stacked,” he said. “It’s full of great competitors and I want to test myself against them.”

With years of success in the ONE Championship cage behind him, and many more ahead of him, Eduard Folayang truly is the picture of longevity. He says his longevity can be attributed to his mindset. He simply stays focused on the things that are important to him.

“I think it’s a matter of mindset,” he said. “Just focusing on my career and being a good role model for Filipino kids.”

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/29/2019.