Friendships have an astonishing capacity to withstand the test of time, distance, and life’s twists and turns, and such is the case with Eduard Folayang and Marvin Somodio.
Despite being separated by different paths and geographical boundaries, fate recently brought the old pals back together in an unplanned reunion in the United States.
The opportunity to reconnect with each other arose when Somodio extended an invitation to Folayang to visit Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym in Los Angeles, California.
It was gladly accepted by Folayang, who has been in the U.S. since April along with fellow former ONE world champion and stablemate Joshua Pacio for a so-called “career-development” excursion since their surprising departure from Team Lakay this past March.
Both men share a long and intertwined history. They first met as varsity athletes and classmates at the Baguio City National High School-Rizal Annex in the late 1990s.
“We were both athletes. I was a boxer. Meanwhile, he (Folayang) played sepak takraw, which is why he kicks so hard. I think we were classmates in our third year of high school around 1998-99 because we graduated as part of batch 2000,” Somodio recalled in an interview with Tiebreaker Times.
After completing their secondary education, Somodio and Folayang found themselves on separate journeys.
Somodio suited up for flag and country as a member of the Philippine national boxing team from 2004 to 2007.
The 5-foot-1 slugger, originally hailing from New Lucena, Iloilo, eventually turned pro and fought in three bouts before deciding to hang up the gloves for good.
Somodio may not have struck gold as a pugilist, but his biggest break came as a trainer in 2012 when Roach personally recruited him to be the legendary coach’s deputy. He worked with several distinguished names in boxing such as Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Eimantas Stanionis, Viktor Postol, and Ruslan Provodnikov.
Meanwhile, Folayang retired his sepak takraw uniform and began his transition to martial arts at the tender age of 16. He mastered the Chinese full-contact combat sport of wushu sanda under the tutelage of Tony Candelaria.
Folayang went on to become a bemedaled wushu sanda athlete, but it was when he switched to mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2007 that he cemented his place as a national sports icon in the Philippines.
Adopting the moniker “Landslide” in reference to the geological calamity that frequently occurs in his beloved hometown, Folayang captivated audiences by mirroring the force of nature with his relentless offense and extraordinary tenacity.
This dynamic fighting style propelled Folayang to both regional and international success, with his two separate reigns as the ONE lightweight titleholder being the most notable of them all.
As Folayang’s star as a mixed martial artist shined even brighter, Somodio turned into one of his staunch supporters.
“It made me really happy to see someone become so successful in a very competitive sport, especially if it’s a good friend,” he stated.
Somodio was initially taken aback by Folayang’s decision to try his hand at combat sports, but he already knew that his compatriot possessed all the essential tools to thrive in any field.
“Back then, he was already super competitive. He was really a fighter. At the time, I didn’t know in what field he was going to invest that kind of fighting spirit. I saw it in his heart that he was born to be a fighter,” the 39-year-old coach shared.
After years of pursuing their dreams in different corners of the world, Folayang and Somodio had the opportunity to bond and reminisce about the good old days once again.
But their get-together did not end with a simple catch-up. Somodio treated Folayang, as well as Pacio, to a couple of rounds of mitt work in the same ring where Roach developed Pacquiao’s punching prowess.
Somodio, who now serves as the head coach of Filipino boxers Mark Magsayo and Mercito Gesta, was glad to impart some tricks of the trade to his renowned guests.
“On the boxing side of things, I just gave them a few pointers because, at Wild Card, all of our boxers here are uber-aggressive. That’s the style, especially under Freddie. I shared with them my knowledge about positioning and the options they can consider from a boxer’s point of view,” he stated.
As Folayang and Pacio’s crisp strikes coincided with the rhythmic thuds of punches landing on the pads and the symphony of heavy bags being pummeled inside the famed training facility, Somodio couldn’t help but feel flattered.
For Somodio, it only underlines the significance of boxing in the multi-faceted sport of MMA.
“Hands are the easiest to use, especially when you’re a little bit gassed in the ring or in the cage; your hands are still there,” he mentioned.
Despite his experience as a trainer, Somodio is not too keen on a cornerman role in MMA matches. However, he may consider it if Folayang needs his help.
There is no set date yet for Folayang’s return to action, but Somodio believes his close friend still has a lot of mileage left in him.
“When we were spending time on the mitts, the fire is still there,” he said.
“He has a lot to learn, which is why I applaud them for visiting different gyms and learning more about the different styles here in the U.S. Learning never stops, as they say. Based on his abilities, I think he can definitely keep doing it.”