No farewell for Folayang

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Eduard Folayang and his teammates are hard at work, polishing their craft, overcoming, sharpening their skills for the next battle. The Landslide Martial Arts Training Center is always busy, save for Sundays when everyone attends church and bonds with family. Folayang was supposed to fight in Qatar on Dec. 3, but it was pushed to March 3, most likely with a different opponent, as yet unknown. The last few years have been turbulent for the former MMA world lightweight champion and his mates, exacerbated by the pandemic.

“One of the challenges I faced that time was I that I couldn’t push myself to get the win,” Folayang told The STAR in an interview supported by G1 Lodge. “It’s only this year that the situation improved and Joshua (Pacio) and I were able to go to the US. I felt refreshed. The level of competition had changed. Coaches and trainers have a different approach to their training. It gives a broader view, particularly for me. I’m in a critical stage. It will never be the way things were.”

Talk of the 39-year-old’s retirement was the result of five successive losses spanning 2020 to 2022. The streak was punctuated by a knockout loss to Edson Barboza a year ago. Parting ways with Team Lakay, Folayang (23 wins, 13 losses) and his fellow world champions struck out on their own. In April, Folayang and Pacio traveled to the US for two months of serious upgrading. The results became clear with his third-round knockout of Amir Khan on Sept. 29.

“There’s a certain confidence you get from training there,” the former Philippine national wushu athlete explains. “They study your opponent very well, analyze you, and come up with a very good game plan. Here (in the Philippines) we sometimes overlook that. We don’t break things down level by level.”

Ignoring calls for him to step away from the cage, Folayang continues to improve, grow, get stronger and better. He believes he still has two to three more years of being the best in his profession.

“We have a saying, only a carabao gets old,” he laughs. “As much as possible, I intend to capitalize on that to get back to contention level. The problem with us here is that once they mention your age, people judge you that you’re already done. It’s a challenge for me to handle that in a way that becomes positive for my career.”

“Only Kuya Eduard will say when he will retire,” echoes stablemate and former MMA world bantamweight champion Kevin Belingon. “I admire his leadership. He gets along well with everyone. He sets an example for all of us.”

At the end of the day, only the warrior himself knows when it is time to quit. Eduard Folayang has nothing to prove, and has blazed the trail for all Filipino mixed martial artists to follow. He continues to live his life and career on his terms. And that deserves our respect.

This writer would like to thank G1 Lodge Session Road for helping to make this interview possible.

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