Who would have ever thought that the Philippines will have five world champions in mixed martial arts?
But it all became possible in 2018. And it was all thanks to the famed stable out of Baguio, Team Lakay.
Team Lakay has reached new heights in 2018 as it now holds four world titles under the ONE Championship banner.
Geje Eustaquio started the year for Team Lakay by winning the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship with a unanimous decision victory over Kazakhstan’s Kairat Akhmetov in a rematch this past January.
“Ladies and gentlemen, when I started fourteen years ago, this was impossible. But now, after 14 years, impossible is not a word — it is just a reason,” reflected Eustaquio.
“Anybody can be a world champion, as long as you have the drive and the attitude.”
It was followed by Kevin Belingon, who had his first taste of gold last July when he dominated two-division titleholder Martin Nguyen by way of unanimous decision for the interim ONE Bantamweight World Championship.
Belingon became ONE Championship’s official bantamweight champion by defeating longtime division ruler Bibiano Fernandes via split decision in their highly-anticipated title unification rematch last November.
“It really felt like a dream to me,” said Belingon.
“We had worked so hard to reach that point. It didn’t sink in at first, but when it did, I felt accomplished.”
Meanwhile, Joshua Pacio settled the score with Yoshitaka Naito in September, dethroning his Japanese rival by unanimous decision to bring home the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
“I trained hard for this. I have had my ups and downs to get this title belt – just like Baguio City,” shared Pacio, who dedicated his fight to the victims of Typhoon Ompong.
With three champions, it was just apt to end the year with Eduard Folayang.
Folayang joined Eustaquio, Belingon and Pacio in the cast of Team Lakay world titleholders, recapturing the ONE Lightweight World Championship by toppling Singapore’s Amir Khan this past November.
But for Folayang, this impressive run was not because of them — it was because of their mentor Mark Sangiao, who deserves all the credit in the world.
“Coach Mark should have a belt,” Folayang insisted.
“We are a good team because we have a brilliant and selfless coach who supports us all the way.”
“It’s our biggest year. We won titles and received many awards this year. This is the result of our hard work, dedication, and sacrifice,” added Sangiao.
“These awards and titles are just the fruit of our hard labor.”
Team Lakay may have cemented its position as a global force in mixed martial arts in 2018, but Sangiao assured that the entire team is not resting on their laurels.
“This is definitely the best year for us, but of course, we will not stop. We have to keep on improving and defend those belts.”
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