Pinoy MMA fighters look for ways to survive

Nissi Icasiano
Pinoy MMA fighters look for ways to survive
As fights remain on hold, Filipino MMA athletes find themselves facing a different battle



MANILA, Philippines – While numerous sports organizations and leagues ceased operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) has been exploring options in an effort to stay afloat. 

With their main sources of income now severely truncated, Filipino MMA athletes find themselves facing a different battle as they adapt to a new norm during the global health crisis. 

Team Lakay temporarily closed its training facility in La Trinidad, Benguet after the Philippine government implemented an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to contain the outbreak that has recorded over 4,000 cases with nearly 300 casualties in the country as of Sunday, April 12.

At the moment, Team Lakay is taking a wait-and-see approach as most of Mark Sangiao’s prized wards are training in their respective homes. 

“Right now, the gym is closed. I have been staying at home since the lockdown was implemented. But there’s an exception. If one of our athletes will get a fight offer, that’s the only time that we can open the gym. We will let him use it to train, while I supervise his or her preparations,” Sangiao said. 

While Team Lakay is compelled to find creative ways to stay battle-ready in the middle of the pandemic, it is the same story 315 kilometers away from the renowned stable’s home base as Rene Catalan also had to make the necessary training adjustments for his group. 

Like in the northernmost part of the country, COVID-19 likewise paralyzed the whole Metro Manila, affecting the Catalan Fighting System in Makati City. 

As the Luzon-wide lockdown only allowed establishments providing basic necessities to operate, Catalan had no other choice but to shut the doors of his gym to the public. 

“We’re in survival mode right now, to be honest,” the 41-year-old grizzled veteran admitted. “It’s difficult because we have to look for other ways to earn money. Fighting is our livelihood. When the world stopped, we also stopped. Of course, we hope this will end soon.” 

Catalan may have barred his regular clients from joining him in training as a precautionary measure, but life goes on for him and his stable of fighters such as younger brother Robin Catalan and Jomary Torres. 

“For us, we keep on training even though there is no scheduled match because we are just waiting for the go-signal from our promoter to compete again,” he said. “I think that’s the only way we can earn money during this crisis.”

Both Sangiao and Catalan received the heartbreaking news last week when ONE Championship head honcho Chatri Sityodtong opted to postpone the promotion’s two closed-door events this April.

“The concern for safety is very evident. I commend them for that. But at the same time, it’s sad. We badly need it,” Catalan stated. 

To compound the misery of the two trainers, President Rodrigo Duterte extended the Luzon lockdown until April 30, from the original April 12. 

Earlier this month, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) made a major step by proposing to include professional boxers and other practitioners of combat sports, as well as their trainers, among the beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program

According to reports, GAB chairman Baham Mitra is now coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to speed up the process. 

As he prays that this ordeal finds its ending soon, Catalan urges the people to be vigilant and observe healthy practices in combating this virus while keeping the faith to get through these tough times.

“To my fellow Filipinos, stay healthy. Boost your immunity. Find a way to exercise, even if you’re locked in at home,” he advised. “And the most important thing of them all is that we should always trust God. We will all get through this.” –


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