Former ONE Championship lightweight king Eduard Folayang knows he is in the later stages of his career. But he still feels that he could ascend to the top of the division once more. Part of his last ditch effort will come at ONE Fight Night 14 against familiar foe Amir Khan.
On a five-bout skid, Folayang made the difficult decision to leave Team Lakay. The famed Filipino gym saw a mass exodus earlier in 2023, but for “Landslide” there are no hard feelings. It was simply an effort to change up his game and improve to re-enter the mix at lightweight.
“I think this was the best time for me [to move on]. Whether I like it or not, I [only] have a few remaining years of fighting in this sport. I need to get out of my comfort zone. It’s very risky to do, but it will be for my improvement for me to grow. It’s time for me to be in another environment to unleash whatever potential I still have before I get to call it a career,” Folayang told ONE.
Folayang is clear he has no ill will toward Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao after leaving the camp to start his own gym alongside fellow ONE athletes Joshua Pacio, Kevin Belingon, and Honorio Banario. In fact, the 39-year-old sees it as a benefit for Filipino MMA. Now athletes have another choice to begin their training and a new generation of martial artists can be developed in the country.
“I think it’s for the betterment of Philippine mixed martial arts, having a team here [instead of abroad]. I can see a lot of talent rising up, and if we can be able to have some teams or avenues where they can be developed, then it will be better,” Folayang remarked.
“Landslide” is clear he did not pilfer the talent of Team Lakay. The former ONE Lightweight MMA World Champion has an open door policy at Lions Nation MMA and those who followed him simply made up their own mind. But no one has been closer to him than former strawweight king, Joshua Pacio. When the two made their way around the U.S. training, the two came up with the name for their new camp.
“When I was in the U.S. with Joshua Pacio, we were out jogging, and we were talking about what would be the name of our team. The lion came up, so we decided to make it Lions Nation because we fight like a lion. We have the heart to fight like a lion,” the Filipino recalled.
Starting fresh is both exhilarating and exciting. Folayang is feeling both emotions as Lions Nation MMA gets started. Thankfully, their own stomping grounds has provided the building blocks for their new home.
“It’s scary and exciting. There are a lot of birthing pains because it’s like starting from nothing again. Luckily, the old [Team Lakay] gym’s contract was already up. So we have an avenue for us to renew the contract, to use it as a facility where we can train. I think the thing is that there’s excitement and there’s fear. But at the end of the day, we are happy because it’s an avenue for us to keep growing,” Folayang said.
Although Folayang is seeking to break his losing streak on Friday, September 29, the Filipino star is already looking toward his future behind the scenes. As the head of his new gym, “Landslide” knows his performances and star power are important for growth of the sport at home. It is much bigger than just his quest to wear gold one more time.
“It’s about impacting other people to do the same. If we can be able to influence even one person who can make it internationally and become a champion someday. It will be something if I’ve been able to pass or mentor some fighters that can be able to follow my path and make a difference,” Folayang stated.
ONE Fight Night 14 airs live on Prime Video on Friday, September 29. The action begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m PT. The event is free for all Amazon Prime members based in the U.S. and Canada.