FILIPINO MMA star Eduard Folayang was named by the ONE Championship as its “Fighter of the Year” after a stunning upset over one of the greatest Asian MMA warriors, Shinya Aoki.
Following a year of layoff after a knockout loss to Timofey Nastyukin in 2014, the 33-year-old former high school teacher from Baguio City returned to the the ONE Championship cage in 2016 and logged three wins, including a win over Aoki to claim the organization’s lightweight crown.
Folayang started 2016 on a high note with a unanimous verdict over experienced Japanese fighter Tetsuya Yamada in January in Malaysia. He followed it up with another unanimous decision victory, this time against Aussie veteran Adrian Pang in August in Macau, which earned him a shot at the lightweight title.
Despite being a huge underdog against Aoki, Folayang fended off the Japanese superstar’s vaunted submission game and stopped him in the third round with a series of right punches to the head that forced the referee to step in and stop the fight last November in Singapore.
Folayang, 17-5, is still awaiting the first title defense of his ONE Championship light weight belt.
Aside from that, Folayang was also named “Fighter of the Year” in the 2016 Asian MMA Awards of MMA Mania website.
Along with Folayang, his gym, Team Lakay, also earned honors as “Gym of the Year”.
After a loss by Crisanto Pitpitunge in March, Team Lakay fighters went 14-0 up until October after Josha Pacio lost to ONE Championship strawweight champion Yoshitaka Naito.
The Baguio City based Team Lakay is run by former MMA fighter Mark Sangiao and boasts as the best MMA team in the Philippines that produced such talent as Folayang, former champion Honorio Banario and Geje Eustaquio.