A full-time Muay Thai instructor at Muayfit PJ, the Filipino lightweight lives alone in Malaysia, and sees his daughter only once a year in pursuit of his professional MMA dreams.
With four TKOs in four wins to his name, his sacrifices have not been in vain, as Corminal now finds himself making his ONE Championship debut on 11 March at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM.
There, Corminal will have the daunting task of facing Thai MMA pioneer Shannon Wiratchai in his hometown of Bangkok, Thailand, in front of thousands of Wiratchai’s screaming fans.
“I have watched his fights,” the Filipino says. “He is good. Tough.”
Currently training twice every day to prepare for the bout, Corminal is no stranger to adversity, having faced it his whole life.
Raised by a single mother in Manila, Philippines, he found it hard to make a living in his home country, despite having a computer science degree. He started working at a restaurant to make ends meet, but soon it proved to be unsustainable as well.
That was when Corminal made the incredibly difficult choice to leave his family behind, and relocated to Malaysia to continue working in the restaurant industry for more money.
“It got tough. I decided to come to Malaysia to work and support my family,” he said. “It was difficult. I am alone here. I had to work every day. I missed my family, but I survived.”
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as that is where Corminal discovered Malaysian fight gym Muayfit PJ. A longtime fan of MMA, he originally only wanted to learn Muay Thai, but soon picked up an increasing number of disciplines to become a full-fledged mixed martial artist.
He made his professional MMA debut in 2012 at a Malaysian show, and it was a night that would change his life forever.
“The first time I walked to the cage, I was very nervous,” he recalls. “Once I got inside the cage, I told myself: ‘This is it, you can do it or not.’ When I heard the cage lock up, the nerves were gone. I made contact with the guy and that was it.”
Following that first TKO victory, Corminal scored three more in local promotions around Asia, started coaching at his gym, and left his mundane restaurant job behind. Simply put, he is now living his dream.
That dream continues in Bangkok when Corminal faces Wiratchai on 11 March in Bangkok. It would be the most significant bout of Corminal’s life, taking place on the most prominent stage in Asian MMA with his toughest opponent to date.
However, regardless of the result, Corminal is not worried, and exudes an aura of calm that belies his stunning knockout ability.
I am just going to do my thing,” he said. “Whether I win or lose, I just love this sport.”
The bout will headline ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in Manila, Philippines, on 21 April at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Folayang famously won the World Title in November 2016 with a third-round TKO victory over MMA legend and then-champion Shinya Aoki. It was a performance that won Folayang several honors, including multiple “Fighter of the Year 2016″ awards.
“Winning the title against a legend like Shinya Aoki will forever hold a special place of distinction in my career, but it is only the first step in establishing my legacy,” said Folayang.
“Before champions are recognized as greats and legends of the sport, every single one of them faced contenders that challenged their prowess as champions. In April, I will have the opportunity to show the world why I hold my coveted title.
“I know how exceptional Ev Ting’s talent is. I am in a tough preparation for this bout.
“This will be my first fight in the Philippines since December 2014. I don’t want to let my countrymen down. I will make sure that the belt stays in the Philippines.”
Ting, on the other hand, earned the right to challenge Folayang after putting together an impressive four-fight win streak, including a hard-fought split decision over former title challenger Kamal Shalorus at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in February.
Immediately after the win, Ting called out Folayang in his post-fight interview, and expressed his desire to fight for the title on the Manila card. Folayang was quick to agree over social media, seemingly sealing the deal for the bout to take place weeks ago. Now, it is official.
“I have worked tirelessly to be where I am now. It has finally paid off because I will get an opportunity to vie for a world title,” said Ting.
“It’s every mixed martial artist’s dream to become a champion. This is my chance to fulfill that dream. Eduard Folayang is a great champion and is admired by many Filipinos, but he has what I want. I’m coming to Manila to get it from him and bring the belt home to Malaysia.”
ONE Championship’s first event in Thailand was such a success that the second had to be a big one, and they don’t come much bigger in global mixed martial arts than a popular female fighter defending her championship belt.
No other sport has elevated sportswomen to prominence in the same way as mixed martial arts. For all the personalities and the money they make in tennis, golf, and athletics, no group of women are viewed as being so far up the promotional and ability ladder as women’s MMA.
Undoubtedly, Ronda Rousey was instrumental in developing that unique position in the west, while in the east under the ONE banner, that honor went to Ann Osman. With Rousey on a dramatic downward curve and Osman having lost a few key bouts, Angela Lee is primed to ascend the throne on a global level.
Footage of her thrilling title win over Mei Yamaguchi made its way around the world, far beyond the 118 countries to which ONE gets beamed directly. The acclaim has been unanimous, and the clamor to see Lee’s first defense is likely to be significant.
The honor of making that first challenge falls quite properly to Jenny Huang, the stylish combatant from Chinese Taipei, who apparently springs straight out of the Street Fighter video game to light up arenas across the continent.
This is not grappler versus striker, but submission ace versus submission wizard. It is Lee, the woman who brought the twister to life, versus Huang, the woman who pulled off a gogoplata when nobody saw it coming.
Huang comes out in a cheongsam and strikes a pose that exudes confidence and style. Her 5-0 record promises substance, and Lee has never faced a woman who is at such a career peak.
Huang’s record looks better the further you scan through it. She started with two decision wins, the second of which was her ONE Championship debut against Elena Pashnina.
The third contest saw her register a first inside-the-distance win – a round two submission of Amira Badr. She then submitted Jeet Toshi, the first woman ever to step into a ONE Championship cage. But the win that secured the title shot was that famed second-round gogoplata submission of April Osenio, who had dismantled both Natalie Gonzalez-Hills and Osman herself.
Lee’s ascent has been steep and impressive. Always promising, her rite of passage came in submitting the very tough Lena Tkhorevska in two rounds, before another second-round win, this time over Rebecca Heintzman, which propelled her into the Yamaguchi fight.
That breathtaking and emotional contest with the Japanese veteran Yamaguchi is the only fight on either woman’s record that hasn’t ended by submission.
And that is the obvious key to this fight. For her age, the 20-year-old Lee is phenomenal on the mat. If that development continues, and if she’s still fighting at Huang’s age of 26, she could perhaps become the best pound-for-pound female mixed martial artist in the world.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.