By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WOUND up at the raw end of their respective ONE Championship matches last time around, Filipino Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and American Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez seek to bounce back when they collide on Aug. 2 at “ONE: Dawn of Heroes” here in Manila.
Set at the Mall of Asia Arena, Messrs. Folayang (21-7) and Alvarez (29-7) go at it in an elevated encounter that will see them battle it out in a ONE Lightweight Grand Prix semifinal match.
They lost in their respective matches in March in ONE Championship’s first-ever show in Japan but found themselves thrust to the high-stakes contest following the pullout of grand prix semifinalists Lowen Tynanes and Timofey Nastyukhin because of injuries.
Two-time ONE lightweight champion Folayang lost to Japanese legend Shinya Aoki in his last fight, submitted in the opening round by way of arm-triangle choke.
The lost meant Mr. Folayang, 35, surrendering the title he recaptured in November last year.
But the Filipino champion is not deterred by the latest bump in his illustrious career, and instead is determined than ever to get back into the mix of things.
“My journey as a world champion is like a roller coaster. There are times when I am a world champion and people look up to me. There are also times when I am defeated, so I will try again to climb the ladder to get the belt back,” said Mr. Folayang in the lead-up to his match with Mr. Alvarez.
“I got it, but lost it again this time. I think the most challenging part is how to get yourself back on the winning track. We are going to start again. That is not something new to us,” he added.
Mr. Folayang said that he is expecting nothing easy against Mr. Alvarez, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion, which is why they are really preparing hard against the American.
“I think Eddie is a good martial artist – you will not become a world champion if you don’t have a good approach to being a martial artist,” Mr. Folayang said.
Mr. Alvarez, for his part, acknowledges that he, too, has his hands full against Mr. Folayang but is not allowing it to consume him too much.
“Look, I got the first one out of the way. I lost, no problem. I did the same thing in the UFC [against Donald Cerrone] and I honestly almost did the same thing in my debut in Bellator. I got dropped terribly. My debut in Bellator against an Irish kid (Greg Loughran) that no one knew. I got caught pretty clean,” said Mr. Alvarez.
“I bounced back and got the win, but I’m not a big fan of my debuts, put it that way. So I got it out of the way, got it past me, and now I can go full-on, go undefeated straight to the belt,” he added.
Mr. Alvarez made his ONE debut in March but had the lights turned out on him by Mr. Nastyukhin in their grand prix quarterfinal encounter in the opening round.
“I go out there and I’ve given my all every time, but I think at every once in a while it’s good to take a loss and put the fire back in your belly, and I think it’s a good time to have that. Sometimes you need that fire to burn long enough to get to that world title,” Mr. Alvarez said of the mindset he has heading into Friday’s event.
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.
Meanwhile, ONE Championship unveiled early this week what it touts to be the largest esports world championship series in Asia.
ONE Esports will be organizing a series of Dota 2 World Pro Invitationals featuring the top teams in the world. The ONE Dota 2Singapore World Pro Invitational will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Dec. 20-22, 2019 and the ONE Dota 2Jakarta World Pro Invitational will be held at ICE BSD on April 17-19, 2020.
Each Invitational will see the world’s best professional Dota 2 teams compete for a prize pool of $500,000.
In addition, as part of ONE Championship’s commemorative activities for its 100th event to be held later this year in Tokyo, Japan on Oct. 13, ONE Esports will be hosting the ONE TEKKENTokyo Invitational and ONE Street Fighter Tokyo Challenge on Oct. 5 and 6 respectively. Each tournament will give members of the fighting games community to take on 9 top-ranking fighting games esports professionals in a 3 v 3 team format.
For ONE Esports, the organization named Carlos Alimurung as chief executive officer.