With his highly-anticipated encounter against Singaporean sensation Amir Khan for the vacant ONE Lightweight World Champion set to take place a day after his birthday, Filipino superstar Eduard “Landslide” Folayang cannot think of a better present for himself than to have a world title wrapped around his waist once again.
Folayang will be celebrating his 35th birthday on 22 November, a day before his scheduled five-round championship clash with Khan in the main event of ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, which emanates from 20,000-seater Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“There’s no greater gift I can receive on my 35th birthday other than winning the ONE Lightweight Word Title back,’’ he expressed. “And there’s no better place to do it but in front of my countrymen.”
After relinquishing his lightweight crown to Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen almost a year ago, Folayang did not waste any time as he immediately went back to the drawing board to check where things went wrong.
Folayang amazingly worked his way back to the upper echelon of the talent-filled 77.1-kilogram weight class, dominating Kharun Atlangeriev in three rounds last May before edging out Aziz Pahrudinov in a lightweight thriller two months later.
The turning-35-year-old Baguio City native treats the opportunity of reclaiming the ONE Lightweight World Championship both as a reward and vindication.
“There were some who doubted my decision to continue fighting after the knockout loss to Martin Nguyen nearly a year ago. After two wins in ONE Championship, I am back in the title picture,” Folayang stated.
“I feel very fulfilled because I made the right decision to compete again. Also, my hard work has paid off. It will be a great birthday present for me to bring home the belt again. It’s an added motivation going into the bout against Amir Khan on November 23,” Folayang added.
Even if he is pegged as the heavy favorite to win the bout against Khan, Folayang stressed that he is not taking his Singaporean opponent for granted.
Khan holds the exceptional record for the most wins and finishes in ONE Championship, scoring impressive victories over the likes of Bashir Ahmad, Jimmy Yabo, Jaroslav Jartim and Adrian Pang.
The 23-year-old Singaporean phenom is coming off the biggest win of his ONE Championship stint, submitting Folayang’s teammate Honorio “The Rock” Banario with a first-round rear-naked choke this past September.
“He is young and talented. I am also sure that he is hungry. There is no room for complacency in this match. Of course, the momentum is on my side, but I plan to sustain it. I started the year with a win. I followed it up with another big win. The timing speaks for itself,” Folayang said of his match-up with Khan.
On his return to the world championship stage, Folayang made a bold prediction that fans in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena will witness another coronation of a Filipino world champion in mixed martial arts.
“2018 has been a very good year to me. After November 23, I’m confident that the Philippines and Team Lakay will have another new world champion in the sport,” he vowed.