Winning back the ONE Lightweight World Title is indeed a cause for celebration, but Eduard “Landslide” Folayang plans on giving him himself less than a month to celebrate the glory as he sees a storm brewing from a mile away.
While he welcomes the new year as the reinstated king of ONE Championship’s lightweight division, his weight class will undergo a significant shakeup with the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix.
The eight-man single elimination competition, which was announced at the ONE: Heart of a Lion Press Conference in Singapore by company head honcho Chatri Sityodtong last November 7, will take place in 2019.
The aforementioned tourney will feature the top of the heap in the lightweight division, who will compete throughout the year, with the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final bouts taking place at separate events, rather than on one night.
One of the confirmed participants in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix is international mixed martial arts superstar Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, who inked a multi-bout contract with ONE Championship this past October.
Merely a month into his second reign as the ONE Lightweight World Champion, Folayang looks forward to the challenges that he will be facing in the upcoming year.
“There are many athletes on the current roster that want a piece of what I have right now. They will have that chance, especially after the announcement of the World Grand Prix next year. I am welcoming it wholeheartedly,” he stated.
“These challenges give me more reason to be motivated and to improve.”
Avid fans of the Filipino superstar were reminded of his younger days as Folayang dominated Singapore’s Amir Khan from start to finish in the co-main event of Conquest of Champions, which emanated from the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines last November 23.
Drawing shades of his vintage form, the 35-year-old Baguio City native punished his younger opponent with his signature spinning heel kicks, throbbing right hands, and sharp elbows.
With his unpredictable timing and trademark lightning-quick combinations in the later rounds, Folayang easily cruised to a clear-cut unanimous decision win, becoming a two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion.
“Martial arts is a journey.
“We always need to move forward. Defeats and even victories in the past are there to teach us a lesson, enabling us to learn more and improve our perspective,” said Folayang when asked to describe his victory over Khan.
Although he redeemed himself in the eyes of his countrymen with the world title-clinching performance against Khan, complacency still has no place in Folayang’s vocabulary, keeping a watchful eye on his talent-filled division.
“As the champion of my division, you have to study every athlete who moves up in the rankings,” he explained. “After winning the title, there is a huge target on my back again.
“This kind of development excites me because I have the chance to prove my worth as a martial artist.”
A rematch of epic proportions is set to take place when Folayang defends his ONE Lightweight World Championship against Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki at A New Era in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March.
Folayang is now putting an end to his honeymoon period with as he looks to start the hard grind as soon as the Yuletide season is over.
“I am already doing light training for my upcoming fight. After Christmas and New Year, the real work begins. I am happy that I won last month, but it’s time to move on and take on the next challenge.”
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