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Mixed Martial Arts

Josh Culibao shares why he chose ‘Kuya’ moniker despite being ‘bunso’

Not every mixed martial artist has a captivating alias and an interesting narrative behind it. Joshua Culibao, though, is one of the few who has both a noteworthy moniker and an even better story to tell.

Despite being the youngest among four siblings, the Filipino-Australian prospect is nicknamed “Kuya,” a familial term used in a respectful manner to address an older male relative, brother, or friend.

It was given to him by his teammates at the Sydney-based Igor MMA, since he calls everyone in the gym by the Filipino kin endearment.

“Basically, I am the bunso of three older brothers. It’s in the reverse. Instead of the bunso, I’m the kuya. But it started in the gym. I always use kuya. I use it to call my teammates ‘kuya’ because I always look up to them,” said Culibao in an exclusive interview on The Hit List presented by Smart Sports.

“Like an older brother, I show them the respect of my culture by calling them kuya. So they started calling me kuya as well.”

When he turned professional in 2016 and started to rack up victory after victory, Culibao still didn’t have a nickname that helps add an unmistakable flair on his profile and retention in the minds of fans.

“The Natural Born Killer”, “The Iceman”, “Cro Cop” and “The Last Emperor” — these are just some of the most memorable monikers in MMA history. They each exude grit and danger every time their bearers step inside the cage.

However, Culibao opted to adopt a less-intimidating nom de plume, heeding his team’s request to use “Kuya” in his future bouts.

“They said it’s good to have a fight name, so [they asked,] ‘Why don’t you decide ‘Kuya’ as your nickname?’”

So when veteran announcer Bruce Buffer introduced him in his UFC debut against Jalin Turner this past February, it blew the mind of Culibao when the proponent of the renowned “It’s time” catchphrase properly pronounced his full name and alias.

#ReadMore  Vera, Munoz, Team Lakay inspire Joshua Culibao

Buffer will get to announce Culibao once again, with the 26-year-old set to make his sophomore Octagon appearance versus Canadian standout Charles Jourdain. The two are scheduled for a three-round featherweight clash on the undercard of UFC Fight Island 4. The event takes place this Sunday, October 4, at the Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Culibao eyes redemption in his return to action. He last suffered a second-round stoppage loss at the hands of Turner in a lightweight contest.

Returning to his original weight class with a full training camp, Culibao plans to show no brotherly love to Jourdain when they collide on Sunday.

“You do not understand how hungry I am for this. It is something that has been eating me up. And I’ve had to deal with it during this whole COVID situation, the whole lockdown, the whole quarantine. It’s been eating up me,” he stated.

“So now that I am able to get a full training camp, I just want to go out there and put up a fight. I just want to show everybody I’m not that same guy who fought one weight class higher on short notice. That is not me. In this fight, you guys will see.”

Written By

Nissi Icasiano is a sportswriter, analyst and editor from the Philippines. He started his professional career in 2013. He has also written for various media outlets such as, ABS-CBN, Tiebreaker Times,,, South China Morning Post, The Phnom Penh Post and the International Business Times. In 2017, he started a career as a Combat Sports Analyst for television and radio, appearing on various news shows for ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5, Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM, PTV 4, Business World, Radyo Pilipinas 2 and Bombo Radyo Philippines. He practices boxing at Tiger City Boxing Gym whenever he is not writing.

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