ONE lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang is the country’s next sports icon after boxing great Manny Pacquiao, according to ONE Championship Chairman Chatri Sityodtong.
Like Pacquiao, Folayang used his mixed martial arts (MMA) skills to help his family rise from poverty.
The two fighters faced difficult challenges before reaching the top of their respective fields.
“My dream is to see a local star becoming a national star, and then he becomes a global superstar. I think that in Eduard Folayang, we have a big potential there,” said Sityodtong in a statement.
Folayang became the brightest MMA star in Southeast Asia after scoring a third-round technical knockout against Japanese legend Shinya Aoki last November.
The 33-year old Folayang, a native of Baguio City, fights under the famous stable Team Lakay.
“In order to become a legend, you have to beat a legend. Eduard Folayang showed what it’s like to conquer the odds,” Sityodtong said of Folayang’s stunning win over Aoki.
For Folayang, it was an honor to be mentioned as the next big thing in Philippine sports.
“It makes me feel very proud that, coming from the Chairman of ONE Championship himself, that he holds me high to that regard. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Folayang in an interview with The Manila Times on Tuesday.
“Manny Pacquiao is a legend in boxing and a legend in the Philippines and in the world. To be mentioned even in the same breath as him is truly an honor,” he added.
Folayang admits he still needs to put in a lot of work and effort to become the next sports icon of this generation.
“I just hope I can bring glory and honor to my country like he (Pacquiao) has for years and years,” he said.
“Again, it’s an honor to be in this position and I will do my best to represent the country on the global stage of MMA.”