MANILA, Philippines — He may no longer be the undisputed king of the ONE Championship lightweight division, but Filipino veteran Eduard Folayang remains one of the best in the world.
This is the sentiment of ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodong, who expects Folayang to answer his critics with his performance at ONE: Inside the Matrix on Friday, October 30, in Singapore.
There, "Landslide" will take on Australia's Antonio Caruso in a bid to get back in the win column. Folayang has lost three of his last four fights, including a split decision setback to Pieter Buist in January — his last bout before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of sports events worldwide.
"I think there's many times in the last few years where Eduard Folayang was written off by some of the haters," said Sityodong.
Ahead of his showdown against Caruso, there are questions if Folayang should consider stepping away from the sport should he lose again, or have a subpar performance.
Folayang has already shrugged off those critics, and Sityodong said he does not see the Caruso bout as the Filipino's last.
"The truth is he's still very fresh and very strong and very athletic and very intelligent. I don't believe this is Eduard's last fight," he said.
"I think Eduard is still there, skill wise, mentally and physically. He is still up there," Sityodtong also said, referring to the lightweight division rankings. "He might not be in the official rankings but he is still up there."
Nonetheless, Sityodong acknowledged that a lot depends on Folayang's performance against Caruso, in a bout that he sees is a classic tale of the "young lion" going up against the grizzled leader of the pack.
Should Folayang lose, Sityodong said they will need to have a conversation "about a different path."
But the ONE chairman is upbeat that Folayang will put together a bounce-back performance, and perhaps even put himself on track for another shot at the title.
"Eduard has told me he's ready to go and he's in better shape than ever," said Sityodong.
ONE: Inside the Matrix will be broadcast live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. The blockbuster features four world title bouts for a total of six compelling martial arts contests.
In the main event, reigning ONE middleweight and light heavyweight world champion "The Burmese Python" Aung La N Sang of Myanmar defends his middleweight title against top contender Reinier "The Dutch Knight" de Ridder of The Netherlands.