AS HE steps into the cage with Japanese legend Shinya Aoki for the third (and likely the last) time, Eduard Folayang is certain he has all bases covered.
The striker and the grappler will square off in a trilogy fight penciled for Thursday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It's not a title fight, but the Team Lakay veteran considers it as one of the most important fights in his career, which was came together after a series of unexpected circumstances.
"This fight was really meant to happen. Of a lot of things that happened, we are the ones left to face each other, we are 1-1, we are here to prove something," he said in a virtual media briefing on Tuesday morning.
Folayang was supposed to face Yoshihiro Akiyama, but the latter pulled out of the bout due to injuries. Meanwhile, Aoki's original opponent, Sage Northcutt, had to withdraw because of health concerns.
That leaves the two fighters, one win apiece in their previous faceoffs, to battle each other.
The Filipino striker admitted that it was a surprising turn of events.
"I didn’t expect that we’d be facing each other again in this time. It was a 360 degree turn, because I have been preparing for a different fighter with a different style," the 36-year-old Folayang said.
But he's going to make the most of the opportunity. Shrugging off his doubt, the Igorot champion is using the short time remaining to recallibrate and get himself ready.
"It's a lot of adjustment but I want to do something despite of the changes, I will give the best performance that I can," he said.
Some unfortunate COVID-19 results may have paved the way for this match, but Folayang, now safely ensconced in Singapore, is going to make sure that the match result will be the only 'positive' he's going to get.
And as his home country hit 1 million cases this week, the "Landslide" dedicates the fight to his countrymen, encouraging them to keep up a warrior mentality.
"Pumunta tayo dito para manalo. We want to see our hands being raised. That's the motivation I want to show the Filipino people, you don't wait to be in a perfect situation to face tough opponents," he shared.
Folayang and Aoki first faced each other in 2016, where the Filipino pulled off a third-round knockout to clinch his first lightweight belt. Then, three years after, Aoki got away with an arm triangle submission win in 2019.
While this upcoming fight is a battle for legacy, Folayang believes that, as two fighters with different styles, it will come down to who can execute their gameplan better.
"Magaling si Shinya sa ground, and magaling din ako sa striking. Kaya kung paano namin laruin 'yung game, kung sino makakapag-initiate nang maayos, siya ang mananalo. We keep our faith," he said.