ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation on August 31, 2012!
Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon. If this was “Kung Fu Panda”, they’d be part of the Furious Five. Spending some time off from training to promote ONE FC 5, I was privileged enough to set an interview with them care of our good friends at ONE FC and Monster Centaur Productions.
When In Manila and sharing a cozy table at the lobby of Peninsula Manila with Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang and Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, I had second thoughts about my initial plan of going in guns ablazing with the hard questions. Should I ask about their losses without even breaking the ice? I met Eduard a while back in the ONE FC presser, and I know that he’s a really nice fellow. But Kevin – so stoic, so mysterious (Is that why they call him “The Silencer”?) – really made me think about rearranging my questions before I turned on my IC recorder.
Intense stares from Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon. Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that!
Against better judgment, I stuck to my plan. No praises. No compliments. Just straightforward questions. And then some.
When In Manila Interviews Folayang and Belingon for ONE FC 5
Alvin Aguilar said in the ONE FC press conference that you’re the “Manny Pacquiao of MMA”. How do you respond to that?
EF: I appreciate what he thinks of me. I’m humbled by the idea that I’m part of MMA history in the Philippines! But to be compared to Manny, I mean, he’s a legend, and he’s proven himself as one of the greatest boxers of all time. As for me, I’m still growing; there are still a lot of things and belts that I want to accomplish in MMA.
What were your thoughts when Ole’s hands were raised in your last fight?
EF: In MMA, it’s anybody’s game. I respect the judges’ decision. How people look at a fight is different from how judges see it, so what’s important is I gave my best in that fight. The decision is in the judges’ hands, so I need to respect that.
Humble as always, but in your heart of hearts, what did you think at that moment?
EF: (Chuckles.) Well, I really did my best, and honestly the fight was really close.
After the interview, Eduard Folayang candidly remarked, “It should have been 12-1!”
Your next opponent, Felipe Enomoto, holds a win over Ole Laursen. What would winning this fight mean for you?
EF: This fight is really important for me. First of all, Felipe defeated Ole. Although if you watched the fight, Ole lost because he gassed out in the second round. But Enomoto won convincingly. So it’s a challenge for me to win against Felipe to get one step closer to my goal of winning the ONE FC championship.
Who are helping you prepare for your upcoming fights in ONE FC 5?
EF: For me, I came to Manila to train with Alvin (Aguilar). I spent one week here, and I learned a lot from him. Now I’m back in Baguio to continue my training. In Baguio, we help each other train; even our teammates that have no upcoming fights like Troy Bantiag and Roldan Sangcha-an train with us.
What does fighting a legend like Masakazu Imanari in your first ONE FC bout mean for your career?
KB: It’s an honor to fight a guy like him. If you look at his record and his skills, he’s really on a different level. I really trained hard for that fight. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to win.
What were your thoughts when you were in Imanari’s 50-50 trap and he was going for the heel hook?
KB: When he locked in, I was just focused on escaping from his leg locks. But since it was just the first round and we weren’t sweating yet, he was able to hold on to my leg. It did take him four attempts to get the submission, but it was really tight. He’s really an expert in his technique.
Imanari’s 50-50 trap: That peculiar situation where you want to be in it (because of its legendary status) but more so out of it (because it will sure leave a dent in your MMA record).
Your next opponent, Soo Chul Kim, is more of a banger. What would be your game plan for him?
KB: Since Soo Chul Kim is more of a striker, I’ll go head-to-head with him striking. Then if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try to take him to the ground and submit him. I promise it will be an exciting fight!
Which do you prefer: Fighting in a cage, or fighting in a ring?
EF: For me, the cage is better because you can use the cage, lean and control your opponent against it. When you get too close to the edge of the ring, the action is reset in the middle of the ring, your opponent is able to rest, and your strategy will be interrupted. Inside the cage, when you start pressuring your opponent, your game plan is continuous. So yeah, I prefer the cage more.
The lightweight and bantamweight divisions are the most stacked divisions in ONE FC. In your quest to be the best, what do you consider to be your greatest strength and on the other hand one area you wish to improve on the most?
KB: I consider my greatest strength to be my relationship with God. I dedicate all of my fights to him, and (almost) always I come out victorious. My weakness… (Chuckles.) I guess I still need to develop my ground skills. Admittedly, my techniques on the ground are still lacking.
EF: I think my strength lies in my determination to win. I don’t think of myself going in there alone. I’m also carrying the name of my team, my family, my countrymen, and my faith in God. For my weakness, I believe I still lack techniques in my ground game. In our country, we really lack good BJJ schools. But we have to work with what we have. Sometimes we just watch previous fights to learn more about BJJ. Given the choice, of course we would love to train with the best, but there are financial constraints to going to Brazil, or bringing the best trainers here. So we have to make do with what we have now until we reach that point that we become even better in the BJJ game. Hopefully when Team Lakay grows and becomes self-sustaining, we could bring a BJJ trainer from here (Manila) to Baguio to train with us.
You’re well-educated; you graduated in a good course under a good college. Why pursue MMA full-time?
EF: I did teach high school before. But MMA is my passion. I can always go back to teaching, but MMA isn’t something you can do when you’re already 40 or 50. For me, it would be a waste of the talent God gave me if I don’t use it while I still have the strength. So while I’m still in my prime and I have a chance like this, I want to do everything I can in MMA. Besides, I believe that teaching isn’t only done in the school. I believe I am a teacher as I do my best in the field where God has placed me. Through my actions, people will see, and I hope people will learn from me.
KB: Even when I was still studying, I was already competing in Wushu and MMA. Actually when I graduated, I was still too young to enter the Philippine National Police. So I continued competing in MMA, and the rest is history.
So you never considered venturing into these two careers simultaneously?
KB: Right now, I’d like to focus on MMA first. Then maybe after how many years, I’ll go back and pursue what I finished in college (Criminology).
Please tell us the story of how you became Christians.
EF: Even when I was a child, I’ve been attending church and listening to Bible stories. But I was already in the Philippine (Wushu) team when I personally accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I see myself as a sinner who was saved. God has been very gracious to me even if the path I walk in life isn’t always straight. He really blessed me, gave me this talent that I want to use to bless other people as well.
KB: Like Eduard, since I was a child I’ve been going to church with my mom. I became closer with the Lord when I started in this sport. Every time I fight, I ask for His guidance and blessings. Thankfully, I’ve been successful in my campaigns.
How would you explain the seeming irony between being a Christian and competing in what others deem as a “violent” sport?
EF: (Chuckles.) What’s important is your purpose for being here, why you’re training in MMA. I’m not here for the reason of being violent. If I were, I’d just pick a fight with anyone, and I’ll end up dead or in jail! But MMA is a sport. We are guided by the rules of the sport. We also have to consider that MMA is a very safe sport. The referees are there to make sure of your safety. Then you have to be prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you go to the fight unprepared, for sure you’ll get hurt. And that’s when it becomes pitiful. Before and after the fight, we also have medical exams. Being physically prepared, the fight becomes more of a mental challenge, of facing the pressure of executing your strategy.
Fellow URCC champion Eric Kelly is very vocal in his desire to be the first home-grown Filipino to fight in the UFC. Who about you? How do you see your current promotion ONE FC in terms of your MMA career?
EF: While it’s true that the UFC has already built its name, if my full potential will be reached here and people will know about me through ONE FC, I don’t see the point in going to another promotion to start from scrap all over again. ONE FC is my current home. When you’re already on top, people will naturally seek you out to give you the best matches. We have a very good partnership with ONE FC. They are very supportive; I appreciate the way they deal with us. It’s hard to find such a good relationship with a promoter these days. It’s really a privilege especially since Victor Cui is also FIlipino, the fighters’ welfare is in his best interest.
KB: I want to prove myself in ONE FC. My goal is to become a ONE FC champion. After that, God will reveal what my next step will be.
Big thanks to Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon. God bless, my friends!
In combat sports, it’s always a pleasure to know that the fighters you support bank on more than just their brawn to get the W. Eduard, humble as always, is approaching his next fight the right way by addressing what many analysts are pointing to as his Achilles’ heel. While training with Alvin Aguilar for a week will not compensate for the nine-year headstart Enomoto has in BJJ (less really, because Eduard has been training BJJ in Baguio), Folayang is keeping his feet down and doing what he said to us at the beginning of our interview: “I’m still growing.” And that’s a scary thought right there.
As for Kevin, the analyst in me tells me he’s not telling us everything there is to his game plan. Oh, he’ll definitely bang with Soo Chul Kim. But as his long-time M.O. suggests, Belingon will look for every opportunity to take this fight to the ground to pound, submit, or drown Kim for the victory.
When In Manila, the full fight card of ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation has already been released. Everyone is just waiting for one more name to be announced: the unnamed opponent of “Tobikan Judan” Shinya Aoki for the main event of the evening. The Baka Survivor will do double duty as he is also set to headline ONE FC 6 on October 6 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium against the French Arnaud Lepont.
Along with fellow URCC champion Eric Kelly, the Pride of a Nation will rest at the hands of “The Landslide” and “The Silencer”. The fighters are all set. The promotion is ready as can be. How about you? Are you prepared for the greatest MMA event in the Philippines to date?
ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation is going down this August 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Call 911-5555 or visit Ticketnet.com.ph for the best seats in town.