MANILA, Philippines – Filipino martial arts veteran and two-time ONE lightweight world champion Eduard "Landslide" Folayang is confident that he has enough left in the tank for another run at the title this year.
The Team Lakay stalwart lost the lightweight belt to rival Shinya Aoki in early 2019 during ONE: A New Era in Tokyo. The first-round submission defeat was a painful setback for Folayang, but it did not deter his fighting spirit.
This year, Folayang vows to return as a better competitor and show that he has what it takes to be a champion again.
"2019 has been an absolute roller-coaster ride for me," said Folayang. "I started the year off as champion, but fell short of victory against Shinya in Tokyo."
"That's a loss I learned a lot from, and it was a very tough experience to deal with," he admitted. "I can honestly say, however, that I am a much better martial artist because of it."
Apart from taking on the legendary Aoki, Folayang also got the opportunity to challenge multiple-time lightweight champion Eddie "The Underground King" Alvarez.
Folayang dominated Alvarez in the early goings, but Alvarez turned the corner and scored a come-from-behind victory on the strength of his wrestling and submission skills.
The American secured a rear-naked choke midway through the first round, earning a spot in the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix Championship final, which he eventually relinquished due to injury.
Although it was another painful setback, Folayang realizes the value of facing an American icon.
"After facing Eddie Alvarez, of course, it was another learning experience for me," he said. "Being able to face one of the best fighters in the world, who is a former UFC and Bellator world champion, it was a huge honor."
"I feel like I was winning that fight, and then one mistake and I'm on the losing end. I won't make that same mistake again next time," he vowed.
For Folayang to return to the title picture, he has to be perfect to start the year. He believes he has to turn in inspiring performances that will catapult him back up the rankings, starting with his first bout of 2020.
Folayang is scheduled to face Pakistan's Ahmed "The Wolverine" Mujtaba at ONE: Fire & Fury at the Mall of Asia Arena on January 31. In this bout, Folayang vows to showcase his overall improvements and prove that he learned his lessons in the past year.
"As a martial artist, I'm always learning and growing," said Folayang. "I still feel like I'm at the top of my division, and I want to get back in contention in 2020."
"The lightweight division is one of the toughest in ONE Championship, and I want to reclaim the title again for my Filipino fans. I'm hungry as ever for victory. I will be back on top. It's all about that mindset. With the help of God, I'll be champion again."
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