After trailblazing its way through Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, mixed martial arts promotion ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) is preparing to host its first event in the Philippines this Friday.
The event, called ONE FC: Pride of a Nation, will be held in the iconic Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, where the legendary Thrilla in Manila bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place nearly 37 years ago.
This Friday, several world class fighters as well as rising Filipino stars will follow the footsteps of their boxing heroes, albeit entering a cage rather than a ring.
Headlining the show will be the clash between two Brazilian-born bantamweight brawlers, with DREAM bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes making his ONE FC debut. The well-travelled 32-year-old veteran, who lives in Canada but made his name fighting in Japan, is widely considered as one of the world’s best in the division.
Fernandes will face Gustavo Falciroli, now a citizen of Australia where he is the current Cage Fighting Championships bantamweight title holder.
The 11-bout card will also feature the fourth battle between perennial heavyweight rivals Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia. Their first three fights were to determine the world heavyweight champion, with Sylvia winning the last two, but this grudge match will likely be their last meeting, with both reaching the tail end of their career.
With rumours of American Sylvia getting together with Belarusian Arlovski’s ex-girlfriend, this match-up promises added intensity to go with the history.
Eric Kelly and Eduard Folayang will carry the weight of an expectant nation on their shoulders as they represent the host country in bouts against two very tough opponents. Kelly and Folayang are not only Philippines’ featherweight and welterweight champions respectively, they are also two of the most underrated fighters in the world.
Kelly, in particular, could propel himself into the upper echelons of most MMA rankings with a win over former world champion Jens Pulver of the US. Folayang has no easier task either as he faces Japan’s Felipe Enomoto.
With a record crowd expected to create an electric atmosphere, ONE FC: Pride of a Nation will likely be talked about for weeks to come by fight fanatics of the Philippines.