LONG before ONE lightweight champion Eduard Folayang became the face of mixed martial arts in the Philippines, he worked as a high school teacher.
Facing a younger challenger in EV Ting, he's prepared a special lesson plan, just for him.
All the pleasantries between the two will now have to be set aside as Folayang defends his title for the first time against Ting in the main event of ONE: Kings of Destiny on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"What I will teach him is that it won't be easy becoming a champion. You have to go through a lot," Folayang said.
"He needs to pass the test that I will give before he can say he's the champion. I will give him a tough exam," he added.
Both fighters have shown nothing but class heading into the main event of the first ONE card in the Philippines this year. But that mutual respect and admiration will have to take a backseat the moment the cage doors close and the opening bell rings.
This is the moment that Ting, 13-3, has waited for the longest time. He's not about to let his admiration for Folayang, 17-5, get in his way.
"I feel like I've done everything in my career to be in this position. I've taken no shortcuts. This is my destiny," said Ting.
"There's no perfect fight but I'll be flawless. Try to be a little bit sharper, a little bit cleaner," he added.
While this fight is expected to be settled on the feet given both fighters' willingness to put on a show, it will still boil down to who adjusts quicker.
Both men have shown the ability to do that.
Facing a superior grappler in Shinya Aoki, Folayang fluidly adjusted as he took out the champion in the third round with a flying knee, while fending off every Aoki attempt at a submission.
Ting knows that Folayang's adaptability is one of the champion's best assets.
"I'm prepared for the best version of Folayang. I'm prepared for every scenario and every situation that comes up in the fight," Ting added.
Folayang, however, has been here before. He has tasted the bitterness of defeat and the glory of a victory that have shaped him as a fighter and he now goes to the match a wiser and more experienced fighter.
He'll be watching Ting's every move, every tactic like a professor watching over his students in a final exam.
That's why one wrong move from the challenger could prove to be critical. Unlike Folayang the high school teacher, he's a lot more unforgiving inside the cage.
"I'm prepared for all five rounds," Folayang said. "I know he prepared and I'll just be waiting for him to make a mistake and hopefully we can capitalize."