File photo by Edward Hilvano IV
MANILA, Philippines – Mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Eduard Folayang believes Filipino prospect Joshua Pacio has what it takes to be the next homegrown world champion in the sport.
The 20-year-old Baguio City native is set to challenge Japanese stalwart Yoshitaka Naito for the ONE Championship strawweight title in the main event of the "State of Warriors" card, which takes place at the Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on October 7.
Even with the influx of young talents from all corners of the country, Folayang sees his Team Lakay colleague as the frontrunner of the new generation of Filipino fighters.
"He is so young. He's only 20 years old, but he got two impressive wins this year. I really believe that he will be the next young man to be seen in the sport of MMA," Folayang told Rappler.
Plying his trade in minor MMA leagues such as Team Lakay Championship, Fullcon Fighting Championship, and Spartacus, Pacio claimed 4 submission victories and two knockout triumphs.
Due to his outstanding run in small-scale MMA promotions, ONE Championship noticed Pacio and gave him a spot on the undercard of its "Global Rivals" event in Manila last April.
Pacio came out on top of his first ONE Championship appearance by scoring a second-round technical knockout of compatriot Rabin Catalan.
He had an impressive follow-up to his ONE Championship debut by submitting Thailand's Kritsada Kongsrichai with a first-round rear-naked choke in August.
With Pacio becoming a highly-touted combatant in Asia due to his outstanding 8-0 streak, Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao believes he could be the next big thing in the sport, following the footsteps of Folayang, who is widely regarded as the face of Philippine MMA.
Folayang agrees with Sangiao's observation as he can attest to Pacio's caliber as an MMA competitor. He considers Pacio one of his favorite sparring partners.
"Yes, he is the next big star of Philippine MMA. Not only Joshua, but there's a lot of young talents that could lead the way. But for now, Joshua is the one who shines among them," he said.
Folayang is also eager to help out an up-and-comer like Pacio as he feels that it's his duty as a veteran to sustain the natural course of producing new fighters from the Philippines.
"For us veterans, it's more of preparing the soil for our new generation of fighters. [All we] have to do is to plant the seeds. Everything works together," he explained.
Even if Pacio is facing a more experienced opponent in Naito, Folayang is optimistic that his brother-in-arms will be the winner.
"I give him 80% of winning the fight," Folayang quipped.
His fearless forecast? "Joshua will win via knockout. Maybe third or fourth round," he said with a smile. – Rappler.com