Eduard Folayang and Joshua Pacio are set to headline back-to-back title fights in Singapore-based promotion ONE FC.
[mks_dropcap style=”square” size=”52″ bg_color=”#1588db” txt_color=”#ffffff”]T[/mks_dropcap]he teammates representing the highlands of La Trinidad, Benguet will be competing for the title in their respective weight classes. 20-year-old Pacio will be taking on flyweight champ Yoshitaka Naito in Myanmar this October. MMA veteran Eduard Folayang, meanwhile, is slated to challenge longtime lightweight king Shinya Aoki in Singapore the following month.
Both men have earned their first crack at a ONE FC belt, albeit they took contrasting routes. Pacio burst into the scene after going undefeated in the local circuit. This trend continued when he finished his most recent assignments. Folayang (16-5 MMA, 6-4 ONE FC) has had a roller coaster of a ride in his ten-fight stint with the promotion dating back in 2011. He had dealt with peaks and valleys in the cage before finally receiving a title shot after a dominating win over contender Adrian Pang last August in Macau.
Staying in contention of world titles is a testament to all the hard work Team Lakay fighters have done throughout the years. As for Folayang, capitalizing on the elusive opportunity at the gold is something that one of the country’s most distinguished faces in the fight game has been eyeing since capturing the URCC’s welterweight title almost ten years ago.
“Ngayon, nagpapay-off ang ine-endure (namin) sa past, madaming criticisms,” Folayang tells Dojo Drifter during their last training session at the John Baylon Clube de Jiu Jitsu in Pasay City. “Ang daming bad criticisms sa amin, so tiningnan nalang namin kung papaano mai-improve. Nag-focus kami kung saan pwedeng gumaling.”
“We’re very happy kasi eto naman yung gusto natin eh. Mas marami pang mga teammates natin or mga Pinoy na maglalaro sa title shot. Mas marami pang belt ang maiuuwi dito sa Pilipinas. We’re happy kasi nakikita natin na yung level ng mixed martial arts dito sa Pilipinas ay tumataas na sana hindi lang mag stop dun. We continue to evolve and to grow to higher level of competition.”
Aside from the title shots, another delightful moment for them was when Ultimate Fighting Championship signed Filipino flyweight Jenel Lausa for its second card in Manila. This marks the fourth homegrown fighter to make it to the Octagon following Dave Galera, Mark Eddiva and Roldan Sangcha-an. Lausa is also the first to get signed outside the Team Lakay fighters’ camp.
Folayang is happy to see that Filipino fighters are getting the chance to show their talents on the world stage regardless of their affiliation. He believes that these kinds of developments would not only be beneficial for one party but for Philippine MMA in general.
“Very proud din kami kasi siyempre alam mo yun, ang competition talaga dumadami na rin. Ang mga fighters na hindi lang nasa team namin kundi pati sa iba, yun naman yung gusto natin eh. So siyempre sana mas dumami pa kasi nakakatulong sa ibang mga fighters tsaka sa ibang mga aspiring to be MMA fighters na kung saan nagkakaruon sila ng mga inspiration na walang barrier talaga kapag gusto mong mag compete sa malalaking competition,” he shared.
Folayang is glad that along with the recent exposure is the growing appreciation of people for them and the sport. For him, it provides a better platform to educate the fans more. At the same time, he makes sure not to let it get into their heads and keep the same lifestyle that they are accustomed to, such as riding public buses from Baguio to Manila and back.
“Madaming pagbabago,” Folayang quipped, before jumping on the bus with fellow Team Lakay fighters Pacio and former featherweight champ Honorio Banario. They’re catching the last trip of the day back to Baguio after their training.
“The more na nagiging aware yung mga tao pero sa akin di ko kasi nilalagay yun sa ulo ko eh. Sa akin, just live ang normal na lifestyle; just live na kung saan the more na marami ka pang naiinfluence, kung saan they see your achievement na hindi magiging barrier sa kanila maabot, kundi parang gusto kong iparating na yung achievement mo, yun ang magiging magpapaclose pa sa mga tao. Hindi siya magiging barrier para lumayo ka sa kanila.”