Filipino mixed martial arts icon Eduard Folayang and Martin Nguyen have met and developed the friendship in the ONE Championship organization. They share stories, laughter, and memories off the cage.
On Friday, they will share the same cage and unfortunately, one will leave after his arms are raised in victory and the other has to face the agony of defeat.
Folayang puts his ONE lightweight world title on the line against Nguyen, who went up one division higher even as he is the current featherweight champion.
Folayang, whose cage exploits made his name synonymous with the fast-growing sport of MMA, vows to sets aside their friendship tonight in the ONE: Legends of the World fightcard that begins at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“We have become friends because of MMA. But in the cage, I will put that friendship at risk,’ said the legendary fighter, who has become a local folk hero up north in Benguet.
“We have the ability to hang with the best, no matter what the field. That is why I accepted this challenge in front of me. Join me as I continue my journey this coming Friday. Winning this bout is my top priority, to keep this belt on my shoulder. It is going to be tough, but I have my people to support me.”
After nearly a decade of competing in various promotions, Folayang has amassed an impressive 18-5 professional record. The 33-year-old veteran is currently riding a four-bout winning streak against high-profile opponents, including an emphatic technical knockout victory over Japanese legend Shinya Aoki to capture the ONE Lightweight World Championship in 2016.
Showcasing a highly-improved wrestling and grappling arsenal, Folayang thoroughly defeated top challenger Ev Ting in his first title defense last April. Now set to return to the ONE Championship cage in Manila, Folayang will face ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin Nguyen in a cross-divisional showdown.
Nguyen, an Australian of Vienamese descent, won the featherweight title with a big second-round knockout over Marat Gafurov, said he wants to take on the best in the world and facing Folayang is one of the opportunities.
“I have worked very hard to be in this position. Eduard Folayang is a great champion and embodies the true values of martial arts. I know chances like this are very rare. I will do my best to take another world title home for my family and all of my fans,” said Nguyen.
Another Team Lakay fighter going for the title is Danny Kingad, who will challenge Brazil’s Adriano Moraes for the ONE flyweight title. Teammate Kevin Belingon battles Kevin Chung of South Korea in one of the main undercards.