MANILA, Philippines -- Eduard Folayang is determined to prove that at 36 years old, he remains at the top of his game and is capable of keeping up with the best of ONE Championship's loaded lightweight division.
To do so, he has to snap a three-match losing streak when he returns to the ONE Circle on August 13, where he will face Chinese star Zhang Lipeng in the main event of ONE: Battleground II.
The Team Lakay veteran agrees that the upcoming bout is a "make or break" for him, in more ways than one.
"I agree and I see it as a make-or-break, meaning break in a literal way that it will be the fight that will break my skid of losses," he said, with his past setback dropping his record to 22-11.
"Every fight is important to me so yes, I need to be so focused to make it this time. This fight against Zhang means a lot because it will give me the opportunity to step forward again, one step closer to my goal of becoming a champion once more," said Folayang.
It's fair to say that Folayang has nothing left to prove in his mixed martial arts career, with his legacy in the sport already intact.
But the fighter himself stressed that he has plenty left in the tank and does not want to walk away just yet.
"I'm not yet done," Folayang declared. "In fact, I'm more fired up than ever."
It has been more than two years since Folayang last draped that illustrious ONE lightweight world championship on his shoulders. And there's no question that he misses the feeling of holding that title on his arms and wearing it on his waist.
But his recent skid also means that Folayang is farther than ever from the pinnacle of the lightweight division, which fuels the doubts thrown his way.
Understanding his current situation, the Team Lakay veteran knows that there's only one way to silence the chatter -- both on his status as one of the best in the weight class and his capabilities to still be on top whenever he enters the ONE Circle.
"Sometimes people who are doing nothing and have nothing to strive for want you to be like them and they do this by talking negatively and pulling people down," he said.
Folayang believes that the way to silence the doubters is not just to win over Zhang, but to win in emphatic fashion. It will be easier said than done -- his last finish came almost five years ago, when he registered a third round technical knockout over rival Shinya Aoki that earned him the title.
"All I do is to pray harder and train smarter. I believe that in the right time, I will be able to get rid of that skid. And that's why me and my team are working together to bring the win home this time," he said.
Folayang insists he is not looking past Zhang, even as he is also thinking about possible match-ups against other top names in the division.
"I still have lots of names I have in mind that I want to fight, one of which being that cancelled match against [Yoshihiro] Akiyama," he said. "But right now, I need to focus on who's in front of me, and that is Zhang."
"Everything will just follow from there."
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