ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation Press Conference
When In Manila and ONE FC decided to open their bombastic press conference to the public, Filipino MMA fans flocked to the venue to catch a glimpse of their favorite MMA fighters. Shinya Aoki, Bibiano Fernandes, Andrei Arlovski, Gustavo Falciroli, and local favorites Eduard Folayang and Eric Kelly flanked Victor Cui as he addressed Philippine media for the first time.
From left to right: Andrei Arlovski, Bibiano Fernandes, Shinya Aoki, Victor Cui (speaking), Alvin Aguilar, Gustavo Falciroli, and Eduard Folayang
Being the first to arrive at the venue, I reckoned that most of the earliest attendees were not from the press at all. Rather, they were fans – fans who, I don’t know, didn’t go to school or work to meet their heroes. One in particular was disturbingly unprepared. Armed with just his camera phone, he realized how he should have brought a better camera, as well as photos or whatnot to have the fighters sign on. Still, he braved to ask this autographist (viz., someone who collects autographs) writer if he could borrow my pen and have Eduard and Eric sign in his shirt – yes, the shirt he was wearing. It sounded wrong in so many ways: URCC champions signing, using a sacred silver pen, a worn shirt – God forbid that.
But if there’s something that this episode reminded me, it’s that MMA isn’t about the press, the glitz, the glamour. It’s about the fans. It’s about fighters giving their best to make the fans remember that night of gladiatorial combat. And so allow me to write this piece as a fan of the sport.
Meeting the ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation Fighters – Tales from the Presser
I was surprised that the fighters came to the press conference hall rather early. I’m so used to the star making a grand entrance as the crowd erupts. Today, it was not the case.
URCC champions Eric Kelly (left) and Eduard Folayang (right)
URCC champions Eduard Folayang and Eric Kelly entered the room together, followed by a hulking Andrei Arlovski. I was intimidated – no, I was threatened – by Arlovski’s serious demeanor and towering presence, so I chatted with Eduard and Eric first. As an Eric Kelly fan, I was so happy to know that he is going to fight in the Philippines once more. After a stellar performance against Mitch Chilson in ONE FC: Champion vs. Champion, he was prevented from competing in ONE FC 3 because of certain contractual issues. An apologetic Kelly was eventually allowed to compete inside the ONE FC cage once more during “Destiny of Warriors”, earning a unanimous decision victory over Bae Yong Kwon. Eric was equally thrilled in his homecoming, thankful that everything was sorted out and he could compete in the highest level once more, here in his own country. He will be facing “Little Evil”, former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver.
Eduard Folayang talking about his status as the Manny Pacquiao of MMA
It seems that Victor Cui is not too keen on an immediate rematch between Eduard Folayang and Ole Laursen. While the ONE FC boss is keeping mum over who Eduard is fighting, Ole’s name wasn’t brought up in the entirety of the press conference. Eduard is keeping it as professional as he does everything. Asked about the potential rematch, he said, “Kung ano ang gusto ng tao, yun din ang gusto ko!” (Whatever the people want, that’s what I want also!) ONE FC 5 might not be the best place to pit Filipino against Filipino (especially in the main card), but a Folayang-Laursen rematch is definitely in the horizon.
DREAM Bantamweight Champion Bibiano Fernandes
(If you weren’t able to attend, feel free to photoshop yourself into the picture.)
Multiple BJJ world champion and DREAM bantamweight champ Bibiano Fernandes is such a warm fellow. The day before, I was so jealous of Toffy Ilagan for being able to train with “The Flash” in our gym Project Lifestyle Manila. Considering the list of his victims in MMA and the number of accolades he’s received in BJJ, “Bibi” was so humble, genuinely enjoying the people and culture he has been exposed to these past two days. I couldn’t keep myself from observing his cauliflower ears, thinking, “Geez, do I have to get THOSE to be THAT good!?” One thing that came out of the conversations in the room was Bibiano’s thoughts on his MMA career. According to him, he’s not inclined to keep competing in MMA for too long. “I’d rather take care of the kids,” he says. Family – it’s the same reason he decided to sign with ONE FC instead of moving to the US and fight for the UFC. Family: that’s were the heart of the champion lies.
CFC Australia Bantamweight Champion Gustavo Falciroli
Bibiano’s opponent for ONE FC 5 and CFC Australia champion Gustavo Falciroli was another standup guy. When I asked him to sign one half of a pair of gloves, the other half signed by Bibiano, he told me, “Well I hope you’re on my side!” I promised him that I’ll be on the side of an exciting fight. While Falciroli’s victim list isn’t as prolific as Bibiano’s, both of them are BJJ black belts who love to submit opponents but have never been submitted themselves. All of Falciroli’s losses came from decisions, hinting on what a hard man Gustavo is. My hunch is, either it’ll be an exciting match that will go the distance, or one of them will taste defeat by submission for the first time.
Personally, the fighter I wanted to meet the most was Shinya Aoki. Ever since I became fascinated with BJJ, I would search videos of him teaching techniques online. All the videos are in Japanese. I never understood a single word he said, but he was such a visual instructor, showing the tiny details which are very important in proper technique, you learn the move with his demonstration – Japanese and all.
DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki
So when it was my turn to ask a question, even if I’ve prepared more than one question for each of the fighters in the panel, I had to make it count and ask Shinya about his move to Evolve MMA. And with his raspy voice (it was cracking bad) and through his translator, he replied, “I believe Evolve MMA is the no. 1 camp in the world. They have the best Muay Thai, BJJ, wrestling, and MMA trainers. With Evolve, I’m evolving into a complete fighter.”
Shinya Aoki talking about his move to Evolve MMA
It was just awesome to meet Shinya (and in the process have a pair of gloves signed by him!) . Despite his recent loss to Eddie Alvarez in Bellator, it doesn’t take away the 30 wins he has under his belt, most of which came through expertly set traps and stunning submissions. Whenever he loses, he always bounces back, brushing off the KO/TKO he suffered in his last fight. Granted he does not have the toughest chin, but he definitely makes up for it with his heart.
I guess it comes from his firm belief that he is the best. “I’m the best in Japan. ONE FC is a new journey to prove that I’m the best in Asia,” Aoki claimed. Shinya is probably one of the nicest people outside competition. But inside the cage, he’s a different breed altogether. And for the first time since signing into ONE FC, Manila fans get to witness “Tobikan Judan” in full-throttle action. How spoiled can we get!?
Andrei Arlovski does look like King Leonidas from “300”! “SPARTA!!!”
And as for Andrei Arlovski, well, he still scares the hell out of me! But the guy grows on you. He was very candid during the presser, acting out his “Pitbull” persona while sensibly discussing his professional career as a mixed martial artist. He talked about how Greg Jackson has bettered his game and how he has become a more intelligent, mature fighter because of his losses from Fedor and in Strikeforce. He will be pitted against Australian Soa Palelei who has been on an absolute tear, winning all of his last seven fights via brutal KO/TKO. Expect these two heavy hitters to throw it down inside the ONE FC cage for a heavyweight showdown that will leave one man’s hand raised and the other’s head grounded on the floor!
ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation this August 31, 2012
When In Manila, expect fireworks (both the literal and the figurative) at the Smart Araneta Coliseum this August 31, 2012 as ONE FC offers their maiden event – the first of many, according to ONE FC CEO Victor Cui. ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation will have at least 10 fights for the night, with bouts between Bibiano Fernandes and Gustavo Falciroli, Andrei Arlovski and Soa Palelei, Eric Kelly and Jens Pulver, Phil Baroni and Rodrigo Ribeiro already confirmed. Shinya Aoki, Renato Sobral, and our very own Eduard Folayang are also confirmed to compete in the event.
“DEFINITELY!” was Victor Cui’s reply when asked about the probability of future ONE FC events in the Philippines.
Tickets went on sale today. Amazingly, the prices are well within budget, from PhP 200 to PhP 4,500. Rush to a TicketNet outlet or visit www.ticketnet.com.ph to reserve your tickets now. For official updates on the fight card, visit www.onefc.com and “like” them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ONEFCMMA).
ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation
Smart Araneta Coliseum
August 31, 2012
VIP Cageside – PhP 4,500
Patron – PhP 2,000
Lower Box – PhP 1,000
Upper Box A – PhP 650
Walkout Standing – PhP 500
Upper Box B – PhP 200
Special thanks to Hayabusa Philippines’ Malone Juan for delivering the freshest regulation gloves for the fighter signings.
ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation Press Conference Met with a Packed Crowd from the Media and Fans