The ivory-clad walls of the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila have countless stories to tell when it comes to the legacy of Philippine sports, but the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City isn’t too far behind with its tales of athletic glory if it decides to join the discussion.
With a seating capacity of 16,000 for sporting events and a full house capability of 20,000, the premier showground has paid witness to a number of indelible moments since it opened its doors in 2012.
This includes the curse-breaking victory over South Korea by the Gilas Pilipinas at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship (basketball), the “heartstrong” fairytale of the Ateneo Lady Eagles in UAAP Season 76 (volleyball), and the 2015 IPTL season featuring the once-in-a-lifetime appearances of Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Andy Murray (tennis).
But as far as mixed martial arts (MMA) in the Philippines is concerned, no venue in the country has seen a plethora of career-defining bouts and sold-out fight cards other than the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Since then, the architectural and engineering marvel has become an industry hub.
Its state-of-the-art facility lured international MMA promotions such as King of the Cage in 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2015, and BRAVE Combat Federation in 2019.
However, a global combat sports outfit based in Singapore saw the SM Mall of Asia Arena as a perfect fit to serve as its home in the Philippines.
Following its maiden venture on Philippine shores dubbed as “ONE: Pride of a Nation” at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on August 31, 2012, ONE Championship held its next 19 shows in the country from 2013 to 2020 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The company began with a twice-a-year arrangement before ramping up to a quarterly basis.
As ONE Championship became a regular staple on the establishment’s schedule of live events, the SM Mall of Asia Arena has been anointed by few as the “Mecca of Philippine MMA.”
This Saturday, December 3rd, the organization returns to the “Mecca of Philippine MMA” for the first time in nearly three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make up for lost time, ONE Championship has prepared two stacked cards—ONE on Prime Video 5 in the morning and ONE 164 in the evening.
“It’s a fascinating one because it’s going to be a doubleheader. A morning show will be shown live on Amazon Prime in America, while a night show will be broadcast live all across the world. The Filipino fans are in for a huge treat,” company head honcho Chatri Sityodtong stated.
“It’s a full-day festival, a full-day fiesta of world-class martial arts action.”
Eduard Folayang, the man regarded as the “Face of Philippine MMA,” will be the special feature attraction on the preliminary portion of ONE on Prime Video 5 as he is set to battle Brazil’s Edson Marques in a lightweight clash.
“The arena is a big part of my career as a mixed martial artist. I had memorable moments there, as well as heartbreaking ones. But looking back, those memories—whether good or bad—shaped me into the person I am today,” Folayang told Tiebreaker Times.
“I am super happy to be fighting again at the Mall of Asia Arena.”
At ONE on Prime Video 5, Folayang will be accompanied by Filipina heroine Denice Zamboanga, who is slated to take on Lin Heqin of China in a three-round atomweight joust.
Meanwhile, the ONE 164 extravaganza will be headlined by Joshua Pacio defending his strawweight championship against American challenger Jarred Brooks.
“I’ve been undefeated here in my country, in the Philippines. And I plan to do that again this December 3rd,” the ONE strawweight champion declared.
Pacio will be joined by five other members of Team Lakay at ONE 164.
Geje Eustaquio—the former ONE flyweight titleholder—makes a comeback from a two-year hiatus to square off with China’s Hu Yong.
Jeremy Pacatiw is penciled to duke it out with Myanmar’s Tial Tang at bantamweight, while Jhanlo Sangiao is tasked to welcome Anacleto “L.A.” Lauron—a ONE Warrior Series Philippines alumnus—in a 65.8-kilogram encounter.
Adonis Sevilleno—the ONE Warrior Series Philippines grand winner—is scheduled to lock horns with ex-URCC bantamweight titlist Drex Zamboanga.
Lastly, Jenelyn Olsim faces Chinese strawweight Meng Bo.
Also booked to compete at ONE 164 is Filipino-American MMA superstar and former heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, who finally gets a chance to put his hands on Iran’s Amir Aliakbari.
With a solid lineup from top to bottom, ONE Championship’s trek back to the “Mecca of Philippine MMA” is poised to be one for the books.
“The Filipino fans are not only the loudest, but they are some of the greatest fans on the planet,” Sityodtong said.
“This is going to be an explosive day and night for Filipino fans, and our athletes are in for a treat. They have no idea what’s coming.”