Filipino superstar Eduard Folayang looked moments away from conquering his most high-profile opponent to date in American hard-hitter Eddie Alvarez, but it only took one mistake for it to slip away when they collided at ONE: Dawn Of Heroes last August 2.
Finishing Alvarez in the first round appeared to be within Folayang’s reach as he shockingly rocked the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion with a left hook. He then knocked him off balance with a stinging leg kick in the opening moments of the fight.
You may also like:
Much to the delight of the crowd inside the Mall Of Asia Arena, Folayang swamped Alvarez with a barrage of punches on the mat. However, the American’s composure helped him to reverse the position and take the Filipino’s back for the bout-ending rear-naked choke submission.
It was Folayang’s second-straight submission loss, but it was more heartbreaking given the circumstances, as he seemed to be inches away from defeating Alvarez.
“I think I overdid it. When I saw him get down, I felt like I really wanted to finish him,” he shares. “I don’t usually give up my back but I lost my cool. I really wanted to finish him in the first round. However, because I wanted to get back up, I lost my position.”
Folayang usually knows what to do when caught in a rear-naked choke, but his eagerness to return to his feet only allowed Alvarez to tighten the choke further.
“I had an idea how to defend the choke, but at that time, I felt like my mindset changed,” he says. “One lesson that I learned in this fight is to not rush things, even if there’s a huge opening. It’s all about working on that mentality.”
Folayang revealed that the error did not hit him until the bout was officially over, admitting that his impatience to end the match right there and then got him into trouble—and he paid the ultimate price for being careless.
“When I saw his face, I knew he was close to being finished,” he recalls. “But when the match ended, I was in shock. I really lost focus on the match and singled out the stand-up game. It hurts.”
While many people feel like his experience, or lack of it, when it comes to the grappling aspect of mixed martial arts (MMA) cost him the bout, and kept him from advancing to the finals of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix, Folayang begs to disagree.
“I don’t think I can be easily submitted, but things happen in a bout. This is MMA. It is a multi-faceted sport. There are things that happen in a certain match, which are beyond our control,” he says.
“We’re always working on our ground game, but it’s not why I lost. My mistake was moving in with the wrong mindset. Letting the emotions get the better of me,” Folayang adds.
Despite letting a huge opportunity pass by, Folayang is quick to move forward from the setback. He now sets his focus on getting his A-game form before 2019 comes to a close.
"Who knows? Maybe I’ll be back before the year ends,” he states. “The results don’t matter anymore. What’s important is I learned. I’ll be back, and I’ll try to fix it. Then we, as a team at Team Lakay, will rise again.”
Learning his lessons the hard way, Folayang vows to take things in stride and prepare himself for a better comeback.
“I guess that happens. No matter how hard you prepare for things, it could still collapse with the wrong mindset. I was taken away with my emotions. It’s a heartbreak, but at the same time, it’s a valuable lesson,” said the fighter who gave up his day job as a high school teacher to be a professional athlete.
Folayang’s MMA career has been defined by his ability to bounce back from adversity and emerge as a stronger competitor. His determination to push through heartbreak has paved the way for him to be one of the most celebrated fighters in the country. For the past decade, Folayang has provided fans with countless performances atop the toughest proving grounds of the sport. Against brilliant foreign opposition, he defied odds to become a world champion twice in his career. This is the reason why he is hailed as the face of the Philippine MMA scene.
He may have been forced to tap out in his highly-anticipated showdown against Alvarez, but it is still a victory for Folayang. His passion and dedication have led him to share the ring with the most decorated lightweight fighter that the world has ever seen. Not only that, he was on the brink of shocking the world and defeating his opponent.
The defeat to Alvarez may have caught him off guard but Folayang has nothing to get embarrassed about. In fact, he has every reason on the planet to celebrate and keep his head held high—because after 12 years of competing, he has made it to the upper echelon of MMA.