Upcoming title fights will erase past championship woes, says Team Lakay coach
MANILA, Philippines – Eduard Folayang and Joshua Pacio will have the opportunity to redeem Team Lakay from championship bouts as the renowned mixed martial arts (MMA) group has not won a single world title contest for 3 years.
Folayang is set to challenge ONE Championship’s lightweight kingpin Shinya Aoki on November 11 in Singapore, while Pacio will vie for the Singapore-based MMA organization’s strawweight title against Yoshitaka Naito on October 7 in Myanmar.
Team Lakay, which has been widely associated with the Philippine MMA scene due to the big number of notable homegrown talents that it has produced since its inception in 2003, has lost 6 major title fights since 2013.
Honorio Banario relinquished the ONE Championship featherweight belt to Koji Oishi via second-round knockout in May 2013.
The 26-year-old native of Mankayan, Benguet had the chance to redeem the gold-plated strap 7 months later, but he suffered the same fate at the hands of Oishi.
Like Banario, Crisanto Pitpitunge had a heartbreaking 2013, dropping the Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) bantamweight championship to Michinori Tanaka by way of unanimous decision in May.
In the following year, Geje Eustaquio climbed to the mountaintop of his division in order to compete for the inaugural ONE Championship flyweight title, but he fell short to Adriano Moraes by second round submission in September 2014.
Two Team Lakay fighters were given two title shots in January of this year, but both men failed to bring home at least one MMA world championship belt to their headquarters in the mountains of La Trinidad, Benguet.
Pitpitunge yielded to fellow Filipino stalwart Jenel Lausa via unanimous decision for the available PXC flyweight strap, while Kevin Belingon succumbed to ONE Championship titleholder Bibiano Fernandes’ Kimura lock in the first round.
Even though Folayang and Pacio are facing tough opponents, Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao remains optimistic that his valued pupils will break their losing spell in championship clashes.
“I am confident that they can win and walk out with the titles. Yes, Eduard and Joshua have high-caliber opponents in front of them, but they’re giving everything in training to be prepared for their respective fights,” he told Rappler.
With Team Lakay currently riding high on a winning streak in non-title fights under the ONE Championship banner, Sangiao believes that the momentum is on their side.
“We might have lost our first two title fights earlier this year, but we were able to bounce back. We went 5-0 in Manila last April. We pulled off 3-0 in Macau. Edward [Kelly] and April [Osenio] recently won. We should keep that going,” he said.
According to the longtime Team Lakay mentor, their recent success inside the ONE Championship cage is a product of the fighters’ commitment to improve their skill set in a constantly-evolving sport like MMA.
“I always tell them that losses should serve as a lesson, not a painful memory. In that way, you can improve and refine your skills to be a better fighter. It did pay off for us in our fights recently. We hope to see the same results in Eduard and Joshua’s title fights,” Sangiao asserted.
Team Lakay might be on a triumphant roll, but Sangiao refuses to be complacent while sitting on his stool as he is keen on helping Folayang and Pacio to break their camp’s championship drought.
“We lost our title fights earlier this year. It’s a thing of the past. We will end 2016 with a great joy. I believe it’s our season,” he stated. – Rappler.com