MANILA, Philippines – Eduard "Landslide" Folayang will make the first defense of his ONE lightweight world title on March 31, when he takes on a familiar foe in Shinya Aoki at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.
Folayang won back the belt last November, beating Amir Khan via unanimous decision for his second reign.
The rematch with Aoki is three years in the making, as Folayang had beaten the Japanese submission artist via stoppage to win his first title all the way back in November 2016.
Aoki gets the chance to avenge that loss after working his way back up the lightweight ladder with three impressive victories.
It's a rematch that Folayang has long anticipated.
"I knew at one point or another, I would be facing Shinya [Aoki] again. It was inevitable," the Team Lakay star said. "He was quickly coming back up and I had just won the title again."
"Plus, the huge Japan event was announced. I anticipated defending the lightweight belt against him there," he added.
After learning that he will be defending his title against Aoki, Folayang was happy to show the world the improvements he's made in the grappling aspect of his game.
To do that against a man known as "The Grandmaster of Flying Submissions" can only be a testament to the Baguio City native's hard work.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to once again face this legend," said Folayang. "He's the greatest submission artist in mixed martial arts history."
"I couldn't be happier to headline this event against him. It is an honor," he added.
Folayang is aware that Aoki becomes particularly dangerous when the action hits the mat, and so he has been putting in extra work to fortify his takedown defense and keep the action on the feet.
"As much as possible, I will not give him the opportunity to bring me down to the mat," he said.
"It all boils down to how well I defend myself from his takedowns, knowing how expertly he moves with this sole purpose in mind. Takedown defense is a very important part of my training right now, and I am constantly improving in this area."
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