WHAT IS ALREADY an anticipated match between American mixed martial arts star Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez and Filipino icon Eduard “Landslide” Folayang on Aug. 2 here in Manila has become more significant after it was elevated to be part of ONE Championship’s Grand Prix offering at its “Dawn of Heroes” event.

In an announcement made this week, Alvarez-Folayang, already part of the Manila card, was pushed as a replacement semifinal bout after Russian lightweight Timofey Nastyukhin, who was supposed to face off with Filipino Honorio Banario, was forced to pull out because of injury.

Both Messrs. Alvarez and Folayang are coming off losses in their previous fights and are seeking to redeem themselves in their ONE lightweight grand prix semifinal bout.

American Alvarez, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion, was rocked by Mr. Nastyukhin after being knocked out in the first round of their grand prix quarterfinal encounter in March in Japan.

It was The Underground Kings’ debut outing in ONE Championship.

Mr. Folayang, meanwhile, lost his lightweight title to Japanese Shinya Aoki also in the same event.

The winner of this bout moves on to face Turkish sensation Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Finals.

For Team Lakay stalwart Folayang, having the chance to face a legend like Mr. Alvarez is a dream come true.

“I was very excited when I heard the news that Eddie Alvarez was next for me. He’s one of the most well-known martial artists in the world. In many ways, he’s a legend. Sharing the ring with him is my honor and privilege,” Mr. Folayang said.

He was quick to say though that he being awestruck would not stop him from what he wants to accomplish, which is to give his best and get the victory that would put him back into the mix of title contention.

ONE: Dawn of Heroes is to be headlined by the world featherweight championship fight between Vietnamese-Australian champion Martin Nguyen and Japanese challenger Koyomi Matsushima.

Co-headlining it is the flyweight muay thai world championship fight of champion Jonathan Haggerty of England against Rodtang Jitmuangnon of Thailand.

Also part of the card are the world grand prix semifinals between American Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Tatsumitsu Wada of Japan and Filipino Danny “The King” Kingad against Australian Reece “Lightning” McLaren.

Other Filipinos seeing action at the event, which will happen at the Mall of Asia Arena, are former flyweight world champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio and featherweight Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo