MANILA, Philippines – Ever since joining ONE Championship as an executive, Rich Franklin has kept an eye on the region’s top talents, picking up potential superstars and developing them through ONE Warrior Series.
The progression of local athletes in the sport that he once dominated is certainly not lost on him.
“You look at the progression of these Filipino athletes in general in this sport, how many of the Lakay members have risen to championship status?” Franklin asked.
“Outside of the Lakay team, you have other athletes like Brandon Vera. This culture has a culture that has a martial-arts-slash-combative mentality to it. Up from Manny Pacquiao, it’s just there. There’s a natural ability to pick things up.”
The legendary middleweight from Cincinnati, Ohio certainly had a hand in it.
Since joining the company in 2014, Franklin has worked with Filipino upstarts in the developmental promotion. He has pushed the likes of Rockie “Waray Warrior” Bactol and Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang over to the main roster.
While Bactol, who immediately got promoted after ONE Warrior Series 1, struggled on the main roster, Adiwang barged into the scene nearly a year and a half later fully ready to conquer the largest martial arts organization in the world. (WATCH: Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series | Best Of Lito Adiwang)
“The moment that I came up to this area, I saw Lito and I knew right away that he has a big future,” Franklin said.
“You see now, what Lito has done in ONE Warrior Series graduating to ONE Championship and he’s just making a statement, living up to what I was expecting to.”
With Adiwang the living proof of the country’s rapid progression in mixed martial arts, Franklin attributed that progression to the Philippines openness in embracing changes in the sport.
While most Filipinos in the past were known for taking hits and swinging for the fences, the top local athletes now – like Adiwang and reigning ONE strawweight world champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio – have shown amazing improvement on the ground. (READ: Team Lakay’s epic mountain training)
That would not have happened if they stuck to wushu and boxing.
“I think it’s all about passion here and education. The Fllipino martial arts culture is a culture that has a very progressive mentality, they always look for that next step on how to make themselves better,” Franklin said.
“There are a lot of cultures here that will hold onto what their cultural roots are. Instead of embracing the changes that come, they don’t have that progressive mentality of moving forward but the Filipinos have.” – Rappler.com