MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine mixed martial arts icon and Team Lakay veteran Eduard Folayang won't deny that he is in the midst of a rough stretch, having lost three of his last four ONE Championship matches against top-caliber opponents.
"I've been a bit unlucky recently," he admits.
Despite this, the former two-time ONE lightweight world champion is confident that he has a lot left in the tank, and is ready to prove it when he returns to the ONE circle on October 30 against Australia's Antonio Caruso.
The three-round bout will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and Folayang is looking to put together a comprehensive victory that will not only propel him back into the win column, but also push him up the division standings.
"For now, I'm not even thinking about how long I have left to compete," the 35-year-old MMA fighter said. "It's not on my mind right now."
"The only thing I'm focused on is October 30, and my goal. I want to accomplish my mission and take home the victory," he stressed.
Folayang won the vacant lightweight strap in November 2018, when he dominated Singapore's Amir Khan. However, he succumbed to Japanese rival Shinya Aoki in his first title defense, tapping out to an arm triangle.
Not long after, former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez choked out Folayang at home in Manila. "Landslide" bounced back when he defeated highly-regarded Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu by technical decision; Folayang was arguably leading on the scorecards before an accidental clash of heads ended the action prematurely.
Yet his most recent bout was disappointing, as Folayang dropped a close split decision to No. 3 ranked lightweight Pieter Buist last January, just before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world.
"Obviously, there were things I could have done better in my previous matches, but I think I performed well enough," said Folayang. "Now, it's just a matter of fixing those mistakes and tightening up my game."
"I feel like I still have a lot left to offer the game," he added.
Critics believe that Folayang will need an impressive performance against Caruso, with some suggesting that he should consider walking away from the sport if he loses again.
Folayang shrugged off such sentiments.
"Critics will always be there, whether you're doing well or not," he said. "I just want to go in there and do my thing."
"I've been in this game long enough, and I know enough not to dwell on what my critics say," he stressed. "I think my performance in this event will speak for itself."
Still, Folayang admits that his priorities have changed since reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
"As always, my biggest motivations in life and my career are my family, my country, and God. I will continue to fight for those that matter to me most," he said.
"There's nothing left for me to prove at this level. I'm a two-time former lightweight champion, and I've faced the best in the Circle," he pointed out. "Right now, I'm focused on inspiring more young athletes with my performances, and lifting the spirits of my people in the Philippines."
"I continue to fight more for my country, than for my own personal gain."
ONE Championship returns on October 30 with ONE: Inside the Matrix, broadcast live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. The blockbuster features four world title bouts for a total of six compelling martial arts contests.
In the main event, reigning ONE middleweight and light heavyweight world champion "The Burmese Python" Aung La N Sang of Myanmar defends his middleweight title against top contender Reinier "The Dutch Knight" de Ridder of The Netherlands.