Eduard Folayang is refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to return.
The man known to his fans as “Landslide” was dramatically knocked out by a huge right hand from Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, as he lost his ONE Lightweight World Title in spectacular fashion in December last year.
After taking some time off to reflect, the Filipino hero is ready to make his ONE Championship comeback, as he looks to climb back to the top of the ONE lightweight division once more.
“It was hard to talk about it for a time,” admitted the 34-year-old.
“Finding the right words to describe what I was feeling was a challenge, even for myself. I think that is just how it goes for me after a tough loss. Losing is not new to me, but it is also an opportunity for me to take a step back, and try to pick up the pieces.”
Before that loss, Folayang was one of the biggest stars in ONE Championship. Despite losing his belt, that star power hasn’t diminished.
Folayang captured the title back in November 2016 when he stopped Japanese legend Shinya Aoki via third-round TKO, then defended his belt with a five-round unanimous decision win over Malaysian challenger Ev Ting in April the following year.
His performances saw him earn the love and support of a nation, with the country’s biggest sports star, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, offering his congratulations.
But the life of a champion is a precarious one, and one swing of Nguyen’s powerful right hand brought an abrupt end to Folayang’s title reign, silencing the raucous pro-Folayang crowd in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.
The stunning nature of the defeat proved tough to take for Folayang, who opted to withdraw himself and take an extended break to consider his next move.
“I needed the time off to realise where I went wrong – whether that was in my preparations or in the fight itself,” he said.
“I wanted to know where I had miscalculated. I reviewed every angle, and I really took the time to look at my mistakes.”
As well as taking time to analyse where things went awry, Folayang also used the break to mentally recover.
“As a man thinks in himself, so is he,” he said, quoting Proverbs 23:7.
“I am a firm believer that this game is mental, first and foremost. After you get your mind right, then you can start to work on the physical aspect of it all. It does not matter how strong you are; if you are not in the right frame of mind, you cannot move forward.
“I would go for quiet runs through the mountains, because it gives me a chance to think, and to reflect. Most fighters, after a tough loss, choose to avoid dealing with what goes on inside their minds. I believe that you have to face yourself before you are able to face others.”
Now refreshed and raring to return, Folayang will make his ONE Championship comeback against the undefeated Kharun “Predator” Atlangeriev, who will make his promotional debut looking to extend his perfect professional record to 12-0.
The bout will take place at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore on Friday, 18 May.
“The loss taught me that, to be successful, you have to look deep within yourself – not just at your weaknesses, but also in your strengths,” he says.
“Sometimes, your strengths can also fail you. The important thing is knowing who you are, and what you are capable of.”