Eduard Folayang steps up this Wednesday night, filling in for Sage Northcutt against Japanese standout Shinya Aoki.
Folayang (22-10) himself had a different opponent originally, as he was linked to a bout with former UFC star Yoshihiro Akiyama. But with Akiyama withdrawing, the stars have aligned for a rubber match with Aoki.
Aoki is on a solid run, potentially circling a title fight. That’s not the case for former two-time ONE lightweight champ Folayang, who has lost four of his last five, dating back to the night Aoki defeated him for the title.
“Of course I didn’t expect that we’d be facing each other again in this time, because I’d been on a losing streak, and he’d been winning all his fights,” Folayang admitted during the ONE on TNT IV media day this week. “So when his opponent was injured, it was a divine appointment for us to meet each other.”
Folayang is a ONE Championship original, making his participation in the ONE on TNT series all the more impressive. Ten years later, the Filipino fighter remains a big part of the promotion.
“It’s been fun to be in ONE Championship ever since its inauguration. I didn’t expect that it would grow this big,” Folayang admitted this week. “For now it’s already growing into the west, and a lot of my countrymen there are very happy to watch us live. I think I’ve also grown as an athlete here, as a martial artist I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I’ve had a lot of wins and losses, but the most important thing is that I was able to secure the belt two times, and of course I’m aiming for the third time again. It’s a pretty tough journey, but it’s worth it.”
As for how he’ll adjust, from Akiyama to Aoki, “Shinya is known for his aggressiveness on the ground, and finishing a lot of his opponents. I had to really shift my focus, and the way I will handle his style.” But, noted Folayang, while he wants the fight on the feet, his strong suit, “everything happens, it’s mixed martial arts, I need to be prepared in all the areas in the sport.”
Watch the full ONE on TNT IV media day interview with Eduard Folayang above. The event takes place Wednesday, April 28, with the main card airing live on TNT starting at 10PM ET.