On the Spot: MMA Fighters Kevin Belingon and Eduard Folayang
These guys kick ass.
Will they bring home the gold?
(SPOT.ph) "I wanted to bring Filipino fans something they've never seen before." These are the words of Phil-Canadian ONE FC CEO Victor Cui. And it looks like his wish will come true on August 31 when he brings Asia's biggest MMA event to Manila, ONE FC 5:Pride of a Nation.
To those who've yet to catch the MMA bug: here's the lowdown. Mixed Martial Arts (better known as MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world today. Its practitioners must be in excellent physical condition and well versed in many fighting styles, such as Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai (to name a few). And standing at the forefront of Asian MMA today are two Filipino fighters who train in Baguio City under the Team Lakay banner. These fighters are Kevin "The Silencer" Belingon and Eduard "Landslide" Folayang.
Kevin "The Silencer" Belingon (9-1) is the flyweight champion of the Philippines' largest MMA organization, the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC). The Ifugao-born fighter has made a name for himself thanks to his heavy hands, swift submissions, and outstanding conditioning. "The Silencer" will enter the cage on August 31 in the Smart Areneta Coliseum to face South Korean bantamweight Soo Chul Kim.
Eduard "Landslide" Folayang (11-2), on the other hand, is also a URCC champion and is widely considered as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the Philippines. This SEA games gold medalist is devastating in all aspects of the game and will showcase his skills at ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation against Cage Fighters Championship (CFC) Europe title-holder Felipe Enomoto.
There are only a few days left before these two warriors set foot into the cage for the biggest fights of their lives. Nevertheless, these gentlemen sat down with SPOT.ph for an exclusive interview. Read on for an in-depth look into their lives; the pressures of fighting, their upcoming opponents, and their message to future Filipino champions.
The ONE FC Pride of A Nation trailer
It's been a few months since your last fight, how have you been lately? How'd you spend your summer?
Kevin Belingon: Nagbakasyon muna ako, palamig, and then back to training.
How about you, Eduard? Has it been all training for you or are there other things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Eduard Folayang: Meron din, naglalaro ng chess (laughs). Naglalaro ng chess at nagba-basketball.
Eduard "Landslide" Folayang’s pre-match teaser
Those definitely sound like fun. Can you give us an idea of what your MMA training is like?
Kevin: May different schedules yung striking namin at (grappling) training. M-W-F sa isa, at T-Th para sa isa.
That sounds pretty intense; is there anything you enjoy about training?
Kevin: Lahat ng training namin ine-enjoy namin. Kasi 'yan yung pinaka-importante (na) enjoy-in mo yung training mo. In that way, kung ine-enjoy mo yung training mo, parang hindi ka napapagod.
Good point. And your gym, Team Lakay in Baguio City, is famed for producing dominant champions. How do you explain the success of the Lakay Wushu fighters?
Kevin: Siguro, hard-workers kasi kami. Kapag nagte-train kami, talagang todo yung training namin. Pinu-push namin mga sarili namin sa highest limit namin. And pag training: training talaga.
You're now fighting for ONE FC. Have you learned anything from your experiences there, especially from your last fight against Masakazu Imanari?
Kevin: Yes, isang natutunan ko ay careless ako doon sa laban na 'yon. Hindi ko gustong ma-ulit 'yon sa (susunod kong laban).
How about you Eduard, what have you learned from fighting in ONE FC and fighting abroad in general?
Eduard: I've learned a lot of lessons and new techniques fighting overseas. And I want to develop those skills and I want to apply them in my upcoming fight (against Felipe Enomoto).
And how does it feel to be fighting back on home soil after half a year of fighting overseas?
Eduard: Masaya. Motivated talaga (ako). Overwhelmed ako kasi maglalaro ako dito a Pilipinas. Hindi lang 'yon pero dito pa sa pinakamalaking promotion ng Asia. So nandoon rin ang responsibility na hawak mo yung flag mo, same as the other (Filipino) fighters. So added motivation talaga na you need to prepare well and win this fight because it's very important.
Let's move on to your upcoming fights. Kevin, what do you think of your next opponent, South Korean slugger Soo Chul Kim?
Kevin: Kumpleto din yung skills niya, meron siyang (striking), magaling din siya sa [grappling].
Kevin Belingon’s fighter profile
Do you see any holes in his game?
Kevin: Siguro yung medyo more on striking siya pero 'di siya nagbababad sa ground; yun siguro weakness niya.
So how do you envision yourself winning this fight?
Kevin: Basta manalo ako dito, ayos lang. Kung may chance ako (na) i-knockout siya sa standup, it's okay. Pero kung may chance ako (na) i-submit siya sa ground, it's also okay.
How about you Eduard, what are your thoughts on your next opponent, Japanese champ Felipe Enomoto?
Eduard: Well, Felipe is a good fighter kasi tinalo niya si Ole (Laursen) convincingly, so hindi rin (siya) basta-basta. And Felipe is a CFC Europe MMA champion, so may pangalan din; hindi basta-basta. At kung ikokompera mo sa laki at haba, mas mahaba siya sa akin, so hindi ko siya maa-underestimate. Pero malaki din naman yung possibility at saka (determinasyon) ko na talagang labanan siya kahit anong anggulo.
So how do you plan to deal with his height and reach?
Eduard: Advantage 'yon sa kaniya kung alam niya panong gamitin. Then for me naman, (how) I train is (the same as how I) fight, so pinaghahandaan ko talaga yung mga magiging atake niya at magiging depensa niya kung maglalaro kami. So nakahanda ako kung saan man pumunta ang laban.
What are your thoughts on fighting for such a large promotion like ONE FC?
Kevin: ONE FC ang pinakamalaking promotion sa Asia kaya this is a good opportunity for me to fight and showcase my skills and show a good fight for the fans.
Does fighting in ONE FC come with extra pressure? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Kevin: Meron naman, pero kapag lumalaban dini-disregard namin 'yon, naka-focus lang kami sa laban at naka-focus kami for the win.
How about you Eduard, does it make you nervous to fight in front of your home fans? Or is this an advantage for you?
Eduard: May advantage ako sa opponent ko kung hindi siya sanay doon sa panggugulo ng mga fans (laughs). So may added pressure sa kanila. Sa akin, may added pressure din dahil sa expectations ng mga tao na siguradong mananalo ka o may expectation sila na mana-knockout mo yung kalaban mo. So yung sa akin naman, (what matters is that) I give the best fight that I can. So, may pressure pero ginagawa kong motivation nalang yung pressure na iyan.
You're also a SEA Games gold medalist. Which has more pressure, the SEA Games or ONE FC:
Eduard: (Laughs) Well, sa SEA games, hindi masyado. Meron din (na pressure) pero mas pressured ako (sa ONE FC) kasi ito ang laban talaga na kahit nakalayo ako, even if you are so far away from your opponent because you have a lot of points (ahead of) him, he still has potential to beat you. As long as the referee (hasn't stopped) the fight or as long as the time is still there, the chance to win (or lose) is always there. Unlike in the SEA games, na kapag mediyo malayo na, you can just play and then run until the time gets out, so mas may added pressure talaga (sa ONE FC). In mixed martial arts talaga you should be sure always. Kailangan talaga sigurista ka, so 'wag kang magbi-blink, kasi kung bigyan mo ng break yung sarili mo, kapag maging unconscious ka o maging unprotective ka (sa sarili mo), talagang matatalo ka.
Folayang and Belingon with One FC CEO Victor Cui
Spoken like a true veteran of the fight game. So, Eduard, many people say that you're the Manny Pacquiao of MMA, what are your thoughts on that?
Eduard: For me, I'm just happy that I'm part of those people who are making an impact in the MMA world and perhaps they're considering me (as) the Manny Pacquiao of MMA. I'm glad, but I can't compare myself to Manny. Manny's already a legend, but I'm just focused on what I can do in this sport: yung magagawa ko pa sa isport, kung saan ko pa maipupunta yung level ng Philippine MMA. And I believe gayun din yung aim ng mga kasama ko, puwede nilang gawan ng kakaibang istorya naman for themselves.
You seem to hold much respect for Pacquiao. Are there any other fighters that you look up to?
Eduard: Meron. Yung gusto ko si Fedor (Emelianenko) dahil sa calmness niya. Very calm, pero kapag pagpunta niya sa ring, yung focus niya gusto niya talaga'ng manalo. So gusto ko yung character niya at gusto ko yung attitude niya kung pano maglaro. Pati si Georges St-Pierre. Gusto ko din yung mentality nila kapag maglalaro sila. Kumpleto talaga, hindi lang physical kundi mental at saka spiritual din.
Both of you have won championships and have seen success in here and abroad. What motivates you as a fighter?
Kevin: Motivation ko dito ay gusto ko talaga'ng maging ONE FC champion. Sa akin lang, nagte-train ako, ginagawa ko yung mga dapat kong gawin sa training para ma-improve ko yung skills ko para maabot ko yung next level and to become champion one day.
Eduard: What drives me is my faith in God, my countrymen, (and) the Filipino people. They are one of those motivations that I have every time I fight. Alam ko na binigyan ako ni God nung ganitong talent, nitong katawan para maglaro sa MMA and I'm playing here. So gusto ko pang ipunta doon sa highest level yung potential na binigay Niya sa akin, and (abutin) yung expectations din ng countrymen natin sa akin kung saan ko mapaparating yung sport.
What are your messages for young Filipino fighters who want to become champions like you?
Kevin: Sa mga young fighters na gustong maging champion, sa akin lang yung discipline lang sa sarili yun yung pinaka-importane sa isang fighter, or sa isang athlete, kailangan ang discipline sa sarili: kapag training training, iwasan yung mga masasamang bisyo.
Eduard: Sa ating mga kababayan na gusto'ng maging champions din, follow your dreams. Be with the right people. Be with the right regimen. Work hard in training. Follow niyo dreams niyo at tingnan din ninyo kung gusto ninyo talaga yung ginagawa niyo. Then i-assess niyo talaga kung willing ba kayo na i-pay yung price doon sa dream niyo na 'yon, kasi kung hindi ka willing na mag work hard, mag-train hard-gusto mo'ng maging champion pero hindi mo naman ginagawa yung part mo-(then) you cannot get that, you cannot get the prize.
For more info on these two great fighters, please visit www.teamlakay.com.ph. You can also get more ONE FC info on www.ONEFC.com.
Get your tickets for ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation at www.ticketnet.com.ph; photos by Majoy Siason