Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang is nearly a year removed from last having the world title around his waist, but the dream of being once again recognized as the best in the world lingers. And it’s a dream that Folayang says he will continue to chase for as long as necessary.
Following a tremendous all-around performance against Kharun “Predator” Atlangeriev last May, Folayang is in a tremendous position to put together a solid little win streak.
If he emerges victorious in his next outing, Folayang could very well strengthen his case for another shot at the lightweight belt.
“I felt good in my last bout, honestly. Although, of course, I always feel like I could have done just a little better,” said Folayang.
“I am always looking at how I can get better in every aspect. I feel like my wrestling and my grappling has reached a new level over the past few months. There’s a lot of room to improve, but little by little, I’ll get to where I need to be.
“Lightweight is one of the deepest divisions in the organization, and there are so many great guys all wanting to get to the top. I have to keep winning so I can stay in the mix.”
The 34-year-old Baguio City native and Philippine martial arts legend is set to return to action against undefeated ONE Championship newcomer Aziz Pahrudinov of Russia this 27 July at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, set for the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Pahrudinov, a Sambo World Champion and a native of Dagestan, will be Folayang’s third Russian adversary to date. The Filipino also went up against the hard-hitting Timofey Nastyukhin in 2014, suffering a tough knockout loss that ignited a string of victories that led him to the title.
“He (Pahrudinov) is another tough Russian opponent, with the typical Russian style — aggressive and calculated,” said Folayang.
“He has great wrestling and solid striking — excellent all-around skills. It’s hard to face these kinds of fighters because you have to be on your toes the entire bout. Get too close, and there’s the threat of the takedown. I will be prepared to face this style once again.”
The ONE Championship lightweight title picture is a crowded one, with many top contenders vying for pole position on who gets to challenge for the title next.
Reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen is already booked to face Folayang’s teammate Kevin Belingon in the main event for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship, so it could be a while before the Australian is able to make a defense. Still, Folayang feels he needs to make a statement against Pahrudniov in order to stay at the top of the pack.
“I have to beat whoever is in front of me. That is the priority. Right now, it’s Pahrudinov,” said Folayang.
“This is going to be a good, exciting fight and I am excited. I will do my best to keep every advantage and win. He doesn’t have many weaknesses, but I would like to test his striking. Let’s see if he can keep up with me on the feet.”
Team Lakay has a handful of big matches scheduled at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, and as such, the group are deep in preparations for their respective bouts. For Folayang, being able to train alongside his teammate Belingon and help him prepare for a former adversary in Nguyen, is an honor he holds to high regard.
“Kevin [Belingon] and I have been training together since our professional debuts back in the Philippines. We have a long history together as teammates, and it makes me happy to see him at this level,” said Folayang.
“Competing on the same card, it is both an honor and a privilege. It’s a good test for Kevin and I know he can get the win. Martin is an intelligent martial artist however, so it will all come down to who wants it more. Whoever imposes his will is going to walk out of the arena with that belt.”