ONE Fighting Championship: "War of the Lions" was always going to be a career defining moment for Ole Laursen. The K-1 and Muay Thai veteran was coming off his first mixed martial arts (MMA) loss in aix years and desperately needed to get back to winning ways against fellow Filipino Eduard Folayang.
The odds seemed stacked against him, Folayang had only lost once in 12 fights and had won six in a row coming into this contest. He is also seven years younger. And most pundits predicted that Laursen would be unable to live with the relentless pace he sets.
They could not have been more wrong.
Laursen might have tired too early when he fought Felipe Enomoto at ONE FC: "Battle of Heroes" last month, but this time he played his part in an all action 15-minute war that was deservedly named as the "Fight of the Night" in Singapore on Saturday (March 31, 2012).
Folayang has fought five times in Singapore and has a huge fan following and the boos echoed around the stadium when the split decision was announced in Laursen's favor, although in the media section the general consensus was that it was simply too close to call.
Afterward, Laursen -- whose face was badly bruised -- admitted that even he didn't know which way the judges would lean.
"I was nervous because I think it could have gone either way, I was just hoping it was going to be me and it was my day today. I wanted a war and Eduard gave it to me like I knew he would, he is a true warrior."
He was dismissive of the notion that a loss to Folayang would have proved fatal for his fighting career and, win or lose, was not about to contemplate retirement.
"You can say it was do or die for me, but I don't even know what that means really because it's not like I was just going to retire if I lost. I love to fight and I don't know what else I would do if I stopped."
One of the most surprising aspects of the fight was that Laursen consistently looked for trips and takedowns. And once the fight went to the floor showed no inclination to get to his feet where he could utilize the sort of striking with which he enjoyed considerable success during his K-1 career.
It proved a point which he has been trying to make for quite some time, that he is much more than just a stand up fighter.
"I still like the fact that people think I'm all stand up because I love the ground, that's the truth. I train on the ground every day and I'm always working on my submission skills, that's what we're about, we're not one dimensional at Legacy Gym, we are full on MMA fighters and we have everything incorporated."
The owner of Legacy Gym in Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand, Laursen recently returned to the Philippines to set up a second camp in the holiday resort of Boracay. He trained there in preparation for both his recent ONE FC fights, but believes that there were too many distractions in the build up to his match with Enomoto,
"It was a better camp because before the last fight I had some stuff to deal with. This time around I trained good and I had some good guys with me like Kristoff Persson, who just beat a BJJ champion in Bangkok, and both Vaughn Anderson and Froilan Sarenas were with me in Boracay. I had a whole team of good guys with me, everyone at Legacy Gym helps me out."
Laursen and teammates training on the beach in Boracay
Laursen won his first world title back in 2001, fighting at 155 pounds and is still competing in the same category, but the cut is not getting any easier. He says he took this into consideration coming into this fight and came up with a game plan which would be smarter than the aggressive strategy he employed against Enomoto,
"I tried to be more strategical this time because I knew I had some weaknesses with my stamina so I listened to my corner and played my cards right."
The debate will rage on as to whether the decision was the right one, but there is no doubt that this was a highly entertaining fight which was extremely fun for the fans. A rematch is already reported to be in the works and Laursen vs Folayang II could well take place on September 1st when ONE FC put on its first card in the Philippines.
Laursen was born in Manila and this would be the first time in his career he has ever fought there. He did not want to start speculating about future opponents so soon after emerging from such a brutal war of attrition, but had the following message for the ONE FC matchmakers,
"I'll fight anyone, anywhere. I'm a prize fighter, bring forth the prize and I will throw down."
Follow James Goyder on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jamesgoyder.