On 21 April, lightweight champ Eduard “Landslide” Folayang will put his belt on the line for the first time against Malaysian contender Ev “E.T.” Ting in the main event of ONE: Kings of Destiny in Manila.

Ahead of that title defense, Folayang feels that Baguio City’s Team Lakay MMA, led by head coach and former URCC champ Mark Sangiao, has now been proven as one of the top mixed martial arts camps in the Philippines and even in South East Asia.

His win over MMA and jiu-jitsu legend Shinya Aoki in November 2016, which earned him the belt, has certainly cemented that declaration.

The camp has a history of being written off as merely strikers in the past, relying too much on their kickboxing skills and leaving gaping holes in their grappling. Folayang feels that is no longer the case.

“We faced a lot of criticism in the past,” said the lightweight champ at a media scrum in Manila.

FOLAYANG V TING MEDIA SCRUM

“They always told us we need to improve our ground game. I believe Team Lakay will [now] have the opportunity to develop more fighters, for them to come up here [in the country] and in South East Asia. We are continuing to develop in many ways. We are always pursuing relentless growth.”

Said growth has come in quick leaps and bounds. Just in October last year, Honorio Banario, another Team Lakay fighter, shot for a single-leg takedown on Ev Ting and quickly got swept and guillotined, closing out the fight at just 4:07 of Round 1. Folayang is determined not to repeat this mistake.

“With Honorio, he was trying to follow a game plan but he let it go in the middle of the fight,” replied Folayang about similar traps he might fall into in the bout with Ting.

“[Banario] shifted so fast and rushed that Ev Ting capitalized on his mistakes.”

After nearly a decade of competing in various promotions, Folayang’s 17-5 professional MMA record, now at his peak as the kingpin of ONE’s lightweight division, stands as impressive crowning glory.

Specially set against a comeback narrative that had him suffering a cruel loss via flying knee to Timofey Nastyukhin in 2014, then returning with a vengeance in 2016 for a 3-fight win streak before capturing the belt from Aoki.

The 33-year-old veteran was in high spirits and determined to not only defend his belt but to do so in front of his native crowd.

“I have learned from the mistakes that my teammates and other Filipino fighters have made in the cage,” Folayang said, then added that his go-to technique just might put Ting on the defensive.

“The spinning backfist is natural [to me] and it might just come out [in the fight].”

Meanwhile, Malaysian-Kiwi rising star Ev Ting is of the opinion that it will come down to a contest of wills come fight night, in what he sees is a clash between fighters cut from the same cloth.

FOLAYANG V TING MEDIA SCRUM

“It will come down to who wants it more on fight night,” said the 27-year old contender.

“We’re both at the peak of our careers and we’re both well-rounded. It’ll feel like I’m fighting a mirror image, I think, or my older brother. But I really want to beat my older brother.”

Ting has deep roots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but grew up and trains out of Auckland, New Zealand. His 13-3 professional record, including his last win over UFC-veteran Kamal Shalorus extended his winning streak to four—including submission wins over Filipino fighters Banario and Eric Kelly.

It must be noted that Shalorus holds a unanimous decision win over Folayang, way back in 2013, in a fight where the “Prince of Persia” mauled the current champ with his wrestling and takedowns.

Now that Ting’s victory has earned him a date with the lightweight champion, his thoughts turned to the long road that’s brought him into title contention.

“I feel that my eight years of sacrifice have gotten me this far and have enabled me with this opportunity,” shared Ting.

“I’ve taken no shortcuts with my career. I will do my best with it. I feel this is my destiny.”