Mark Munoz, Brandon Vera, Phillipe Nover, and Justin Buchholz are among the few US-based Filipinos who have enjoyed success in MMA. Coming from the mountain province of Baguio, Philippines, Eduard Folayang is one of the most accomplished Mixed Martial Artists who are born and bred in the country.
He holds the URCC and Martial Combat titles, and has also won several championship bouts in MMA. He has also beaten some of the top Sanshou fighters, and is one of the most decorated Wushu practitioners in the world. He has accomplished a lot, but heading into his high profile ONE Fighting Championship headlining bout, Folayang still feels that this will be one of the most important fights of his career.
"Fighting in front of this large crowd, and with the media exposure it has, it definitely makes this one of the biggest fights in my career." Folayang said in an interview with BloodyElbow.com, "This is one of my most challenging fights that would surely test my skills, and I believe that this will be a great opportunity for me to improve my level as an MMA fighter. Training is good, and I am improving day by day as the fight approaches."
Filipino boxing champions such as Donnie Nietes, Nonito Donaire, and the megastar in Manny Pacquiao, all feel like they have a duty and responsibility to properly represent the country in their international bouts. Folayang, who is a decorated Wushu expert from the National Team, is exactly the same when it comes to this regard.
"I always carry the name of my country every time I fight. That’s why I don’t take this lightly," , "There’s some added pressure, but I enjoy it, knowing that it’s a privilege to represent the country, the URCC, and my teammates in Lakay who all believe in me."
This headlining bout on One FC makes things a bit complicated though, as he has to face a friend, and a half-Filipino in Ole Laursen. His Filipino-Danish opponent told Bloody Elbow last week that he had earlier reservations about accepting the fight, and now, Folayang echoes the same sentiments.
"I hesitated to accept a fight against a fellow Filipino. Especially since it will take place oversees, and also because of the friendship he has with my coach." Folayang explained, "But it's already on. As a fighter, you need to do your part to fight anyone in this sport. The important thing is that we’re still friends no matter what happens in this fight."
"This is just a sport. No matter what the result is, we can still be friends and we can work together. Someday if he wants to train with us here in Baguio, we are willing to help him."
After the jump, the story on how this former high school teacher became a Wushu and MMA champion.
"I started martial arts when I was 16 years old. I first joined kickboxing because I didn’t like to be bullied in our area. I enjoyed the sport and continued until I had some local fights in the Cordilleras." Folayang said, as he explained how how he entered combat sports. "I also joined wushu back in 1999 and one of the baguio coaches saw potential in me, so he was interested to help me in my training."
This is where it all started to get more serious. While working on a college degree in Education at the same time, Eduard also started competing locally on San Shou, the combat form of Wushu. He dominated all comers from his weight division, earning the monicker "The Landslide", which likens his relentless fighting style to the vicious calamities that are more common in the mountain province of Baguio.
Less than two years since he started Wushu, he was brought into the Philippine Wushu Team. Although he had to leave his studies temporarily in the back seat, this is where he went on to win numerous tournaments including several medals in multiple South East Asian Games, and Asian Games. He already established himself as one of the best in the world on his discipline, but Eduard felt that there was still something missing.
"Actually I decided to pursue MMA because there is something on it that I miss in Wushu - the ground techniques." Folayang explained, "The sport is a very unique. You have a chance to win at any second. It's well rounded, and you need to learn a lot of things"
Sanshou or Sanda consists of unorthodox stand up techniques, coupled with wrestling and clinch takedowns, making it a perfect base to start MMA with. Unlike other fighters coming from this discipline, Eduard doesn't shy away from the ground game, and actually enjoys and embraces the wrestling and jiujitsu aspect of MMA.
He won an amateur qualifying bout to enter the ranks of the country's top MMA promotion, the URCC, and having that notoriety from his accomplishments in Wushu, Folayang earned a title shot on his first professional bout. He took advantage of the opportunity and dethroned the welterweight champ with ease.
Folayang, a natural lightweight, went on to win a super-fight against the URCC middleweight champion, graduated and earned his degree in Education, and passed the board exam - all in the same year. He was balancing Wushu, MMA, and now teaching.
Eduard and his teammates then established dominance in the Philippine MMA scene by holding multiple belts at different divisions. So after only a few months of teaching, he decided to take up MMA full-time. Two more years, and several quality international MMA fights against under their belt later, Eduard and Team Lakay continued making huge waves in the Asian circuit, leading up to their most high profile bout ever -- A headlining spot on ONE FC, an event with several world champions and UFC veterans on the undercard, and a chance to show their wares in front of 12,000 fans in Singapore, and millions of people watching at home and online.
All that hard work and experience leads to a fight against Ole "Iron Fist" Laursen, a former Muay Thai world champion with a well-rounded MMA game. Folayang, who cherishes the trials and hardships he's endured throughout the years, is grateful for this very moment.
"I never would have thought that I will be headlining Asia’s most prestigious MMA event. I’m so happy, and even pressured by this fight. I believe it's God’s will to be headlining this card with a lot of veterans in this sport. That’s why I take this fight very seriously." Folayang continued.
"Ole is a good fighter. Well rounded in striking and ground technique, so I need to be fit in those areas. His stand up game is at a world class level, but being a Wushu-based fighter will help me to compete against him in a lot of areas."
How will his Wushu stack up against one of the most talented kickboxers in the world? I guess we'll have to wait and see on September 3rd.
For those who want to sponsor Folayang on his headlining bout against Ole Laursen, head over to www.wix.com/lakaytapteam/online to contact his team. Eduard would also like to thank God, Team Lakay, Mark Sangiao, the URCC, and his friends and family.