Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang said that he would not waste the opportunity to challenge ONE lightweight world champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in ONE: Defending Honor on November 11, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore
“This is a big opportunity. Not everyone can get a title shot. I will not waste this chance and do my best to bring the belt back to the Philippines,” the Team Lakay standout Foloyang told The Manila Times.
Folayang is upbeat after notching two consecutive wins against Adrian “The Hunter” Pang and Tetsuya Yamada.
The legendary Aoki of Shizuoka, Japan, is the DREAM lightweight champion, former Shooto welterweight champion, and the reigning ONE lightweight world champion.
Aoki is coming off a nine-fight winning streak.
Folayang and Aoki will fight in a main event five-round lightweight bout.
In the co-main event, reigning ONE featherweight world champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov of Russia will face former titleholder Narantungalag Jadambaa of Mongolia in a much-awaited rematch.
“Finally I’m getting a title shot and I am fighting a legend. It is a great honor for me. I’m doing everything that I can in training so that I will go into the fight ready and well-prepared,” said the 32-year old Folayang, who carries a record of 16 wins and five losses in his eight-year MMA career.
“I know he’s a great fighter on the ground, that is a given. My strategy revolves around taking advantage of his area of weakness, which is striking,” Folayang said.
The 33-year-old Aoki, on the other hand, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Yuki Nakai and has won multiple grappling tournaments across the globe.
Folayang has been honing his boxing and kickboxing skills on top of conditioning, and ground grappling sessions.
“This is the toughest camp I’ve had so far and the most I have ever pushed myself. Believe you can achieve what you hope for even when it seems impossible – this is something that I will take in to battle on November 11,” Folayang concluded.
IPO-seeking ONE founder plays down safety fears
Asia’s top mixed martial arts promoter said he has introduced world-leading safety procedures to prevent another death in the competition, as it prepares for an intended billion-dollar stock market listing.
The death of a dehydrated Chinese fighter before a ONE Championship bout last year underlined safety fears about the fast-growing sport, which is rapidly moving into the mainstream.
But ONE chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong told AFP that the competition had moved to prevent another tragedy by introducing the “world’s safest” procedures to stop the dangerous practice of pre-fight weight-cutting.
“We now have the world’s safest weight-cut procedure and policy for any MMA organisation,” Chatri told Agence France-Presse in an interview in Singapore.
“I’m very confident that our safety regulations are among the best in the world,” he added.
“Can I predict that there’ll be no more injuries or issues in the future? I can’t say 100 percent, no… risk-minimization is key.”
Last December, China’s Yang Jian Bing collapsed with severe dehydration and died from a heart attack a day before a ONE Championship fight in Manila.
The 21-year-old was preparing for his weigh-in later that day. ONE Championship subsequently banned weight-loss by dehydration and stepped up monitoring fighters’ weight.
ONE now weighs fighters regularly and has its weigh-ins three hours before a bout, reducing the likelihood that combatants will go to extreme measures.
In cage-fighting events worldwide, several combatants have also died during or after bouts, mostly from head injuries.
But MMA’s growing audience has turned it into a commercial success, with America’s UFC selling to a consortium for $4 billion in July and ONE seeking a $1 billion dollar IPO within three years.
In another sign of the sport’s growing acceptance, Singapore-based One was handed an “eight-figure” cash injection from an arm of the country’s state investment firm.
However, MMA’s inherent brutality makes it controversial. Some critics also say a lack of drug-testing makes fighters vulnerable when facing opponents who may be pumped up on banned substances.
Chatri said ONE doesn’t carry out doping controls, but he insisted the culture of respect in martial arts — and the poor economic backgrounds of many fighters — meant drug-cheating was unlikely.
“As opposed to a sports culture in America where the marketing, the money, it’s everything. Martial arts culture is that you’re gonna be held accountable to your master, to your teacher, to your school,” he said.
“It’s very different, and so the cultural implications are very, very different,” he said, adding that many fighters can’t afford sophisticated performance-enhancing drugs.
Chatri was born into a wealthy Thai family but while he was at Harvard University, his father went bankrupt and fled, leaving his son surviving on $4 a day at one point.
Chatri survived by taking out bank loans and teaching Muay Thai kickboxing, before securing $38 million for a software start-up which was later sold for an undisclosed fee.
Five years since launching ONE Championship, its events are broadcast in 118 countries and it has unearthed emerging stars like Singapore’s Angela Lee.
“I think the future is very, very bright for ONE Championship. And that’s our business model. Getting, finding local heroes who can ignite the entire country on a global stage,” Chatri said.
“Asia’s been the home of martial arts of the last 5,000 years. There is a true Asian value system to martial arts: integrity, honor, discipline, humility, courage, these are things that Asians really care about.”
Asked if MMA cannibalizes traditional martial arts, Sityadtong disagreed, saying that everything is “complimentary to the ecosystem”.
“A lot of martial arts is amateur right? Meaning you go to Olympics to win the gold medal but after that you don’t really have an avenue to make a good living.
“So if you’re in your prime, 22, 23, 24, with a gold medal, an Asean medal or you know, Olympic medal, why not monetize your lifelong experience in martial arts on the global stage with ONE Championship?”
JEAN RUSSEL V. DAVID and AFP