On a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, two warriors shone with gold draped around their shoulders
Exactly 31 days before their highly-anticipated bout, ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang (18-5) faced off against challenger and reigning Featherweight World Champion Martin Nguyen (9-1), literally on top of Makati City.
Though only pleasantries were exchanged, and no profanity-laced tirades nor chestbumping occured, the anticipation for this bout was at a fever pitch as ONE Championship has produced a dream match between two homegrown talents, two world champions. And this is just the calm before the storm.
“Siyempre, it will always be an honor to fight sa harap ng mga kababayan mo,” expressed a grateful Folayang, who is fighting in Manila for the 14th time in his illustrious 10-year career.
“This opportunity does not come often and I’m pumped up,” added Nguyen, a Malaysian who fought in the Philippines once back in April of 2016.
“I took the rist of fighting him at lightweight because having two belts at the same time is really a big achievement.”
The journeys of Folayang and Nguyen to the top of Asian MMA are identitical. Both needed to slay beasts in Shinya Aoki and Marat Gafurov to bag gold for their respective countries. But for Folayang, the biggest factor on his side is having a hometown advantage over his 28-year-old opponent, who has had a good track record with fighting on the road.
“Martin is a natural featherweight so I expect him to be fast,” the proud son of Baguio City shared. “Magaling din siyang striker kaya kailangan namin pag-aralan bawat galaw niya.
“Isa pang motivation sa part niya is that ganado siya lumaban kasi challenge para sa kanya na dito sa hometown natin gagawin yung fight. Iba yung confidence niya kapag lumalaban sa ibang lugar.”
Nguyen knows this, and was quick to add that youth will be on his side come fight night.
“My body is still young and I want to cherish this opportunity,” Nguyen shared.
“I really respect Eduard. He has that passion for MMA and he dedicates each of his fights for the Philippines.”
Still, Folayang — who is making his second title defense — does not plan on holding back against Nguyen even if his opponent holds him in high regard.
“Magiging mahirap yung fight pero hindi naman tayo basta basta magpapatalo. Kailangan lang namin mapag-aralan yung mga previous niyang laban kasi threat talaga siya.”
ONE Championship: Legends of the World will take place on Friday, November 10, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.