For a lot of Filipinos martial artists who were born and raised in the United States, one of the biggest connections they have to their roots is eight-division boxing World Champion Manny Pacquiao.
So it’s no surprise that Jackie Buntan is one of the many Pinoy fighters abroad who are moved by the soon-to-be hall of famer’s gritty story.
Buntan makes her ONE Championship debut against Wondergirl Fairtex at ONE: Fists of Fury on February 26 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and the moment she straps up her gloves, expect the same grit from her.
“I know it’s like the most common, but Pacquiao,” Buntan said when asked about her career inspiration.
“Especially being a Filipino, there’s always a big family party watching his fights. Even during the time when I was watching him, I was doing Muay Thai and I didn’t know much about boxing, it was just still cool to see him do what he does and all that he does for his community as well.”
Buntan admitted that she didn’t know much about boxing in her early training days, but once she got deeper into Muay Thai, she then understood Pacquiao’s drive.
“It was hard for me to fully understand it when I was super young, but it’s pretty much the work ethic behind him and how he started literally from nothing to where he is now. It inspired me,” Buntan said. “It made me realize that if you really love something and are passionate about something, you can just put your head down and put in the work and you can achieve whatever you want.
“That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned just watching his training, his matches, little videos of his camps and whatnot.”
But her connection to Filipino roots runs deeper than Pacquiao.
While admitting that she only knows about her heritage through stories from her parents, she found out that Filipinos are amongst the most passionate supporters in the world when she became active in Muay Thai.
“The thing about Filipinos is they’re so proud. It’s awesome how they show so much respect and support,” Buntan said.
“I have so many relatives, some of them I haven’t even met, and they don’t even know what I do nor they know what Muay Thai is, but if it’s a Filipino representing, [they’re] all for it. So that’s awesome.”
And after she’s done with her job in Singapore, she hopes to trace her roots next and compete in the Philippines – one of the major destinations for The Home Of Martial Arts.
“Oh definitely – one-hundred percent,” Buntan said when asked about possibly competing in the Philippines. “I’ve never been to the Philippines. When I told my family about it, explaining it’s a promotion based in Asia, the first thing they said was, ‘You got to fight in the Philippines.’
“I have so many relatives over there. It will be great to fight in front of them for the first time and have them see what I do.”
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