MANILA, Philippines -- Eduard Folayang will return to the country where he had his greatest victory this week, seeking to start a climb back to the top of the ONE Championship mountain.
Folayang, 35, will take on Antonio "The Spartan" Caruso of Australia in a lightweight bout on the undercard of ONE: Inside the Matrix. The event, to take place in an audience-free environment, will be held at Singapore Indoor Stadium on October 30.
Singapore has been good to Folayang in his mixed martial arts career. It was there that he registered his most significant win -- a stoppage of Japan's Shinya Aoki in November 2016 to win the ONE lightweight belt.
After he lost the title a year later, it was in Singapore that he secured his bounce-back win by outpointing Kharun Atlangeriev in May 2018. From there, Folayang put together a winning streak that culminated in a unanimous decision win over Amir Khan to claim the vacant lightweight belt in November that year.
"Palaging sa Singapore nagi-start," Folayang noted during an appearance on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning. "Lahat ng conquest ko going into ONE Championship belt, talagang nag-start palagi sa Singapore."
He hopes that the country will bear witness to his success again when he faces off against Caruso at the end of the month. Once again, Folayang is seeking to bounce back: he has lost three of his last four fights, including a shock split decision defeat to Pieter Buist at ONE: Fire & Fury in Manila last January.
In 2019, Folayang dropped the lightweight belt to Aoki and was then outclassed by Eddie Alvarez. His lone win in that stretch came against Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu in November.
But the man known as "Landslide" is not giving up hope that he can get back to the top of the division.
"Napaka-importante nito dahil siyempre, gusto pa rin na makuha ulit for the third time 'yung ONE Championship belt, and it always starts from Singapore," said Folayang. "Doon tayo mas naging maganda 'yung mga performances natin."
"So siyempre it's very important not only for me pero siyempre sa team ko at sa country ko na Pilipinas," he added.
"Part ng bagong journey natin kasi siyempre, andoon na tayo sa journey eh, another chapter lang," he also said.
Folayang assured that his preparation has been adequate, even with the COVID-19 pandemic that forced gyms to close and sporting events to be cancelled. According to Mark Sangiao, the coach of Team Lakay, Folayang and the rest of his teammates found ways to stay in shape during the lockdown, and the long preparation may actually work in their favor.
"Alam ko naman 'yung sipag ni Eduard dito at ng mga kasama niya, nage-ensayo pa rin sila," said Sangiao.
They have also prepared a game plan for Caruso -- who, incidentally, also lost to Buist when they fought in October 2019. Folayang said the key for him is to execute what he and his coaches have put together, and to be on guard for Caruso's brawling style.
"Ang mga gusto nating gawin dito, as much as possible mai-execute natin ng accurate talaga, as much as possible, less 'yung pagkakamali natin," he said. "As much as possible, 'yung execution natin is 100% accurate, para for sure na makukuha natin 'yung panalo."
If he gets the win, Folayang believes it will be the first step towards his ultimate goal -- regaining the ONE lightweight belt that is currently held by Singapore's Christian Lee.
"Parang pagtatanim 'yan. 'Pagka hindi ka naglagay ng seed, wala kang i-expect na puno, 'di ba," said Folayang. "Ito, it's about planting the seed, and this is very important, siyempre."
"Kahit naman gusto mong makaakyat sa napakataas na bundok, kung hindi mo talaga, hindi mo mako-conquer 'yung unang step, wala din. So, ganoon, ganoon ka-importante."