April 23, 2024

Former ONE lightweight world champions Eduard Folayang and Shinya Aoki will settle the score once and for all, when they meet for the third and perhaps the final time in their storied rivalry.

The two mixed martial arts veterans will square off in a trilogy bout at the fourth series of ONE on TNT, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 28.

The 37-year-old Folayang knows how important this bout is to his legacy, and the Cordillera warrior is aptly preparing for an all-out barnburner.

“This next fight is important in my career. Right now, the team is helping me prepare as always, and I am highly motivated to win. I have a pack of ferocious lions behind me, helping me sharpen my tools,” Folayang said.

Folayang and Aoki have met twice before, the first time in 2016, when the Baguio native shocked the world with a third-round technical knockout victory to commence his first reign as lightweight king. They met anew in 2019, with Aoki taking home a quick first-round submission win to even the score.

One recurring theme in their bouts is the classic striker versus grappler dynamic. Folayang is a wushu specialist, while Aoki is widely considered one of the most dangerous grapplers in MMA history.

Folayang believed this fight will come down to who can execute their game plan more, and who can play to his strengths.

“Shinya is nicknamed the grandmaster of flying submissions. The title itself invokes fear to any opponent. He’s a legend. But I like to think that with my time in this sport, fans know who I am and know what I bring to the table,” Folayang said.

The Team Lakay fighter aims to turn back the clock and put in a vintage performance. He is confident he can defeat Aoki again and reclaim his place among the division’s finest.

“There is no doubt in my mind. I want to show fans a strong, rejuvenated Eduard. I want to show them my best. I have faith in God, and I fight for my family, my teammates, and my countrymen. This is the most important fight of my career so far, and I will do everything I can to come out on top,” Folayang added.

Reigning ONE light heavyweight world champion Aung La N Sang will defend his title against former foe Vitaly Bigdash in the main event of the night. – Harley F. Palangchao