Mark Eddiva is a UFC fighter with dreams of teaching

Ryan Songalia
Filipino MMA fighter Mark Eddiva dreams of becoming a UFC champion, even as he finishes up his studies at University of the Cordilleras in education with plans to become a teacher

 BORN TO FIGHT. UFC fighter Mark Eddiva accepting his bronze medal at the Asian Games in 2010. Photo by Laurent Fievet/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Mark Eddiva has been a fighter since before he was a fighter. 

Growing up in the mountains of Baguio City, Eddiva would playfully kick and wrestle with his friends, mimicking the moves of childhood heroes Jet Li and Jean Claude Van Damme long before the combining of both tactics would give birth to the sport of mixed martial arts.

Now 28, Eddiva is one of the promising rising stars of MMA in the Philippines, having traded in his juvenile horseplay for serious combat in the octagon. Eddiva made headlines last month when he became the first native born Filipino to win a bout in the Ultimate Fighting Championship earlier this month, decisioning the previously unbeaten Jumabieke Tuerxun of China at UFC Fight Night 37 at the Venetian Resort in Macau.

“It was rewarding for me mainly because I went through a hard training regimen and sacrificed certain things for it,” Eddiva tells Rappler. “It is an honor to deliver the first win by a Filipino-born fighter in the UFC.”

Eddiva isn’t the first fighter of Filipino lineage to compete in the UFC, however. Filipino Americans Mark Munoz and Brandon Vera have been popular mainstays of the company, which is the industry leader and a pioneer in the sport gaining mainstream acceptance. Eddiva’s teammate Dave Galera became the first native Filipino to compete at UFC in January, but lost a decision to a Singaporean foe. 

As the American-based company continues to expand into the lucrative casinos of Asia, Asian fighters are beginning to get opportunities to compete on bigger stages than ever before.

Eddiva, who is undefeated in MMA at 6-0 (3 knockouts, 2 submissions, 1 decision), didn’t join organized martial arts until the age of 15, when a cousin urged him to practice taekwondo. Eddiva then ventured into boxing for three months. It wasn’t until he went to college when he finally broke out in the Chinese martial art of Wushu-Sanda, making the Philippine national team in the process, that he realized that he could have a future in combat sports.

Eddiva won two gold medals in the South East Asian Games, an Asian Wushu Championshps gold medal and is a multiple-time World Wushu Championships medalist, according to

It was at this time, in 2002, when he first met Mark Sangiao, who remains one of his coaches to this day.

“Mark is very athletic and he can easily learn,” said Sangiao, the founder of Team Lakay Wushu, who adds that his striking and wrestling are his strong points. Still, Sangiao feels that Eddiva’s wrestling must improve if he’s to contend for a championship some day. “For sure he will be in trouble in the future if he will not improve it.”

“For now I prefer to describe (my style) as ‘under construction,’” said Eddiva with a laugh. “My strength now is striking.”

At the moment, Eddiva doesn’t have a fight lined up but is training to stay in shape for his next outing. MMA isn’t his only passion, however.

Eddiva is currently a student at University of the Cordilleras in Baguio, one semester away from completing a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. Eddiva says that he plans to teach someday, with a focus on sports.

“I want to share what I have and to be an agent of change through teaching,” said Eddiva.

To focus on his new opportunity, Eddiva discontinued studies to capitalize on MMA. Eddiva hopes to return to finish up his degree in June, but still harbors dreams of reaching his chosen sport’s pinnacle.

“It’ll be a long shot but the goal is to be a champion in the featherweight or bantamweight division.” –

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at An archive of his work can be found at Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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