MANILA, Philippines — If there is one athlete who put the Philippines on the map of the international sporting scene, it is Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
And with the boxer’s career arc reaching its final chapters, ONE Championship chair Chatri Sityodtong sees Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Eduard Folayang as the perfect successor of the 38-year-old pugilist from General Santos.
“My dream is to see a local star becoming a national star, and then he becomes a global superstar. I think that in Eduard Folayang, we have a big potential there,” he stated.
“(Pacquiao) is going to leave a big void in the Philippines because he is a sports hero. I believe Eduard Folayang has all the right makings of becoming the next flag bearer of the Philippines on an international stage,” Sityodtong added.
From meager beginnings to magnanimous victories
According to Sityodtong, Pacquiao and Folayang have striking similarities as both men had tough beginnings with barely anything to start out with—from penniless homes to underprivileged surroundings.
Despite their successes in their individual fields, Pacquiao and Folayang remained humble as the two highly-decorated fighters preferred not to scowl and flaunt what they have achieved.
“Manny’s story inspires everybody. He evolved from a Manila street kid to a global superstar, but he remained so kind and humble. That’s what we saw in Eduard Folayang as well. Nothing has changed even if he is now a world champion. It’s just the same old Eduard as before,” Sityodtong justified.
Last November, Folayang pulled off an upset victory over Japanese legend Shinya Aoki to become an MMA world champion after nearly 10 years of strutting his wares in the sport.