MANILA — Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) champion Eduard Folayang revealed that he seriously thought about quitting the sport in 2015.
Folayang, who won the ONE lightweight crown by beating Shinya Aoki last November, considers 2015 to be a dark time in his life. He said he wasn’t able to spend a single minute inside the cage that year.
That was after he was brutally knocked out by Timofey Nastyukhin in December 2014.
“Iniisip ko na ito na ba yung huling fight? (Was this going to be my last fight?) ‘Yung pagkatalo ko kay Timofey Natsyukin?” Folayang said.
But the Benguet fighter decided to flush out the negativity and concentrated on improving his ground skills. Deep down, he said he believed he would be champion one day.
“Kinontra ko yung ganoong pag-iisip. Mas nananaig ‘yung aim ko na alam ko someday I will be a champion,” Folayang said.
“So tinake ko every chance na gumaling, na ma-improve ko ang mga areas kung saan ako mahina (I took every chance to become better, to improve in areas where I was weak).”
In 2016, Folayang fought his way into contention. He first outclassed Japanese veteran Tetsuya Yamada in 3 rounds in January and went toe to toe with Australia’s Adrian Pang in August.
“So nung nagkaroon ako ng chance na maka-fight ako nung 2016, naging maganda ang performance,” he said.
Then came his title shot against then-lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. There, he showcased the ground skills he honed in 2015 and enabled him to destroy the Japanese fight via third-round stoppage and wrest the title.
Folayang has become a complete fighter, thanks to his coach Mark Sangiao and Team Lakay.
“’Yun, naging maganda ang resulta. Hindi lang dahil sa akin kundi dahil we worked as a team,” Folayang said. “So alam mo yung patience na itinanim ko nung time na parang medyo naguguluhan ang isip ko (it worked out for me).”
Folayang admitted that things have changed a bit since he became champion.
But he vowed to keep his feet on the ground and make himself a good example for young fighters.
“Medyo mas naging busy, mas nakikilala ka na sa daan,” Folayang said. “Pero kelangan maging responsible ka na sa lahat ng mga ginagawa mo ngayon.”
(I’ve become busier, more recognized on the street. But because of that, now I need to be more responsible with my actions.)
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.