There will only ever be one Manny Pacquiao, but another combat sports fighter has captured the imagination of the Filipino public in recent years.
Eduard Folayang is not just a successful mixed martial artist, he has also won numerous gold medals representing his country at Wushu and is so fiercely patriotic, that he has been known to turn down big money fights to do this.
Inside the cage he is the epitome of the word warrior, he is never afraid to engage his opponents and even when bruised and battered he always finds a way to win. Outside of the cage he is quiet, religious, respectful and extremely humble.
Folayang has never tried to hype fights or to present an image or a persona, people in the Philippines can recognize his qualities without being constantly reminded of them and they love him for fighting in a style which makes them proud and conducting himself in a manner which reflects well on both himself and his country.
In November 2009 Folayang suffered the first and only loss of his career when he was stopped by TUF on FX contestant Jon Tuck early in the first round of their fight in Saipan. It was a brutal one punch KO which left the URCC welterweight champion out cold.
For some fighters it would have been career ending Folayang went away, worked hard and came back stronger. He stopped Korean journeyman Doo Jae Jung with punches in his URCC return four months later which set him up for his first real chance to make a name for himself outside of the Philippines.
When ESPN Star Sports formed Martial Combat in 2010 the Filipino fighter became one of the faces of the organization winning three fights out of three, despite taking some serious punishment against both Bao She Ri Gu Leng and Vuyisile Colossa.
By the time Martial Combat finished its 12 event run he had improved his record to 9-1 and developed a huge fan following in the process. When ONE Fighting Championship was formed in 2011 he was the obvious choice to compete in the main event against another man who had made his name at Martial Combat, Ole Laursen.
A training injury put paid to Laursen's participation but his replacement was the much more experienced A Sol Kwon. The Korean came into the fight with a 16-6 record, was riding a six fight win streak, had competed at both K-1 and Deep and represented a serious examination of Folayang's credentials as a world class fighter.
It was a test the Filipino passed with flying colours, bouncing back from a broken nose in the first round to dominate the remainder of the fight. With 10 seconds left in the last round he had established a comfortable lead on the scorecards and could have sat back but instead he charged forwards, backing Kown up with quickfire combinations to put an emphatic explanation mark on his tenth career victory.
After claiming gold in the 2011 SEA Games (above) he made a triumphant homecoming in January when he fought in the Philippines for the first time in almost two years, defeating Brazilian Wadson Teixeira at URCC Cebu 7. Folayang had always been scheduled to fight at ONE FC 3 and matchmakers decided to slot the previously postponed fight with Laursen onto the second Singapore card.
Laursen recently lost to Felipe Enomoto in the main event of ONE FC 2 and Folayang admits he was surprised when he got the call to face him on March 31st.
"I was not expecting Ole to be my next opponent but this is the match that the crowd in Singapore has been anticipating. I'm a fighter and I will fight anyone they want me to, my job is to train and fight not to pick my opponents."
Both Folayang and Laursen were born in the Philippines but the former has remained in Baguio to this day while the latter has moved from Scandinavia to Thailand before setting up a camp in the seaside resort of Boracay. Teixeira is based there and Laursen, who he was in his corner at URCC Cebu 7, will be looking to avenge that loss on March 31st.
In his last fight Laursen came out swinging and repeatedly rocked Enomoto with punches before appearing to tire in the second round. Folayang is renowned for his stamina, although he also has a habit of getting rocked, and will have been reviewing that fight footage with interest.
"If he wants to try and knock me out as soon as the fight starts I am prepared for that, whatever happens in this fight I will be prepared for it. I would like to be more cautious and prepared in future so that I can win without getting hurt but I am always confident because my faith in God gives me confidence."
ONE FC are coming to Manila in mid 2012 for a show which is rumoured to be taking place in the brand new 20,000 capacity Mall of Asia Arena. Folayang would be the ideal headliner and he says he is desperate to get on that card.
"I really want to be on that show, it would be a dream to fight in front of so many fans in Manila. I hope to fight for the ONE FC Lightweight belt one day but I am just happy to be able to fight regularly, I feel the more often I fight the sharper I get."
His Team Lakay team mate Kevin Belingon has the biggest fight of his life coming up when he takes on Masakazu Imanari at ONE FC 3 and the two of them have been training together. Folayang believes that his training partner has what it takes to win and to improve to 9-0 and is also looking forward to seeing their fights on TV in the Philippines.
"We are helping each other in our preparations and I believe that Kevin will win in this fight. ONE FC will also be shown on ESPN soon and I really look forward on watching my team mates in Team Lakay on TV regularly because it's one way of showcasing our talents in this sport."
As if patriotism and pride were not motivation enough for Folayang he has also begun building a house in Baguio, using the prize money he collected from his fight of the night bonus at ONE FC 1. If he can keep overcoming opponents in style at high profile international event then his home should be finished in no time.
There are a lot of very good mixed martial artists in the Philippines but none of them have quite captured the imagination of the public there in the same way that Folayang has. ONE FC has recruited some of the top fighters in the region but when it comes to popularity none of them can compete with the Baguio based URCC Welterweight Champion.