Eduard 'Landslide' Folayang's TKO victory over Shinya Aoki at ONE: Defending Honor wasn't just another title win; it was proof that, through hell and high water, good guys can still come out on top.
Last week in Singapore, the Team Lakay fighter took on the perennial ONE lightweight champ Aoki, and the odds were stacked against him.
His opponent was riding a nine-fight win streak and was unbeaten in the last four years. He was a judo and BJJ black belter with a revered submission game and 25 submission finishes as a pro. In short, he stood as a stylistic nightmare for the former SEA Games Wushu gold medalist.
However, come fight night, Folayang prevailed. He fended off Aoki's attacks on the ground and scored a third-round TKO to steal the ONE lightweight belt.
A four-time URCC welterweight champ, a Martial Combat Superfight lightweight title holder, and now the ONE Championship lightweight champion, Folayang is currently the Philippines’ most decorated MMA fighter.
While the shiny new belt that Folayang won in Singapore may seem like just another mantle piece, it represents far more than that.
Folayang's career has been marred by heartbreaks and setbacks. Whenever he'd string consecutive wins together to make a run at the belt, he'd suffer a loss, sending him back to the drawing board. All the while, both he and his team were highly scrutinized by media and fans for their shortcomings. And in 2015, he'd encounter his biggest setback: A devastating KO loss via flying knee from young Russian striker Timofy Nastyukhin, prompting some to wonder if Folayang still had what it takes to make another title run.
"Landslide" tossed any doubts aside, winning consecutive bouts to secure a coveted title shot, one that he won in decisive fashion last week.
We live in a day and age where hype and self-promotion seem to outweigh hard work and staying the course. People seem more interested in immediate gains rather than putting in the work, delaying their gratification, and reaping the gains of their sacrifices further down the road. But every now and again, we're reminded that, if you're willing to hang in there long enough and you're willing to go through the ups and downs that come with pursuing your goal, then you will reap what you sow.
That's what Folayang showed us last Friday. The look on his face as he felt the belt around his waist, the smiles of his coaches and teammates as they congratulated him—at that moment, it was clear: the struggle was all worth it.
It's moments like these that remind us that our dreams are worth the struggle, the patience, and the sacrifice. We're reminded that our faith—in ourselves, in those around us, in our cause—will be rewarded, even if it takes a little bit longer than we’d like.
Despite detractors, critics, and setbacks, Folayang persevered to achieve his goal of becoming a ONE Championship title-holder. But evidently, he’s become more than just that.