ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong believes that Filipino MMA fighter Eduard "Landslide" Folayang still has a lot left in the tank amidst talk of the latter's impending retirement.
Speaking to reporters recently, the sports executive believes that the 36-year-old Folayang is not yet washed and still has a lot to offer inside the circle.
The Team Lakay legend (22-9) is set to face Australian Antonio Caruso (7-1), on the undercard of ONE: Inside the Matrix at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct. 30 (live on One Sports and One Sports+).
"For me, when I look at Eduard and talk to him I see that he's hungrier than ever, he's always improving his skill set so I think there's many times in the last few years where Eduard Folayang was written off by some of the haters. But the truth is he's still very fresh and very strong and very athletic and very intelligent," Sityodtong said.
"I don't believe this is Eduard's last fight and of course it will depend on his performance against very tough Antonio Caruso. It'll be a very fun fight," he added.
Folayang agreed with the assessment of the CEO, and assures that he can bounce back from recent setbacks in order to have a shot at the ONE World Lightweight belt once again.
"We have a saying in the Philippines that 'only carabaos get old'. So you know, I think, it's just like a fish swimming in water. If you take out the fish, it will die. I'm already in this sport and I'm enjoying it. I think this is one of the things that I experienced, being in the sport of MMA, putting in a lot of effort even in this age. I believe I'm still fresh," explained the three-time champion.
For Caruso, who suffered his first loss against Pieter Buist in his last contest, he is hell bent to force a changing of the guard when they face off.
"I want to achieve everything Eduard has achieved. He's a legend in this division, he's a legend of this sport and he's a legend of his country. That's exactly what I want to do. To do that you have to beat a legend and I'm coming in the 30th to become the legend just like he is and make way for a new challenger in the lightweight division," said Caruso.
"What I bring to the table that [Folayang] has not seen before is me. He has never fought me, he has never faced me, he has never fought a person like me before. Yes, he's seen boxers, kickboxers, wrestlers, jiu-jitsu, but he has never fought me, Antonio the Spartan," furthered the Brazilian jiujiteiro.
The fight is just a component of a very stacked card in Friday's event. ONE: Inside the Matrix also includes four world title bouts and an atomweight clash.
About 250 "superfans" are also expected to watch the event, which Folayang likened to a sparring session. Strict protocols will be instituted by the sports promotion, and could possibly be a harbinger for more successful sporting and non-sporting events in the near future.
"Basically we test them before they fly out of their respective countries. When they land, we test them right away and we have a test that gives results quickly, within 12 hours. And then, we test them throughout the week," expounded Sityodtong.
"But more importantly, we secure every floor of the hotel, every room, and the athletes are always escorted. A bubble has been created from the airport to the hotel and to the venue. The athletes are obviously isolated and there are multiple test points."
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ravaging the Philippines, Sityodtong maintained that the promotion is not currently planning to stage a closed-door event in the country.
"When we come back to the Philippines, we'll make sure it's a spectacular show and fans will be allowed in the stadium. It'll be a real, big, big show," mentioned Sityodtong.