The 29-year-old Filipino will square off against ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes on Saturday, 23 June in Macau, and the victor will leave as the undisputed king of the division.
For Eustaquio, this fascinating World Champion versus World Champion main event bout presents a unique opportunity.
Not only can he stake his claim as the best flyweight in the world, he can also redeem his September 2014 loss to Moraes, when they competed for the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Title.
“It is hard to admit, but the first time we met, I was totally green. I just was not ready,” he explains.
“Now my confidence is super high. I believe I can stand and trade with him, and going down to the ground with him is a dream.
“I have so much respect for Adriano, as a martial artist and as a competitor, but it is my time now. I will leave the stadium the undisputed World Champion.”
Victory would crown a lifelong journey that has seen Eustaquio show maturity, dedication, and resilience in abundance on his way to the pivotal World Title clash at the Studio City Event Center.
Growing Up Quickly
Unlike most kids, Eustaquio was forced to become the man of the house at an early age.
His father made the life-changing decision to move from the family’s home in the Philippines to South Korea for work, in order to better provide for his wife and children.
At the time, “Gravity” was 9 years old, but knew he needed to step up and become a father figure for his brothers and sisters.
“Life was very tough, because I had to stand up for myself and my siblings,” he recalls. “I had to basically take care of the responsibilities my dad left behind. He was away for 10 years. I really missed him.”
Eustaquio was aware of the economic hardship his family was experiencing, so he understood his father’s intentions. That just motivated the youngster to help out his family any way he could.
A Journey Takes Shape
Five years after his father left for South Korea, Eustaquio’s martial arts journey began to take shape.
The teenager’s curiosity was piqued by a kickboxing promotion in Benguet province, where he would watch local athletes compete in the ring.
That inspired “Gravity” to get involved in the striking arts. He started training at a small gym in the community, and it quickly opened some eyes.
“I just did my best, and then the opportunities came,” he says.
Eustaquio became a member of the junior Philippine national wushu team, and then after graduating from Baguio City National High School in 2005, he attended the University Of The Cordilleras on a wushu scholarship.
At the university, he practiced under the team’s head coach – and founder of Team Lakay – Mark Sangiao. The two developed a close relationship, and “Gravity” would train at his coach’s Lakay MMA gym semi-regularly when it opened years later.
In February 2011, while training at the facility one day, Sangiao approached his former pupil. A Filipino mixed martial arts promotion needed some athletes to step in and compete on short notice, and the Team Lakay general encouraged Eustaquio to enter the cage.
“Coach Mark said, ‘Why not try?’” he remembers. “So I said, ‘Let’s go!’’’
He knocked his opponent out in 49 seconds, and never looked back.
Leaving The Classroom
Eustaquio’s parents were not thrilled about their son pursuing a career in martial arts. They preferred to see him move into a more stable field of employment, like education.
“Gravity” respected his parents’ wishes, as he applied himself to his studies. Ultimately, he earned two degrees – a Bachelor of Secondary Education in 2009, and then a Master of Arts in Physical Education in 2016.
He started teaching after getting his first degree, but just a year into his job, he realized the role was not for him.
“My world became so small. My job took all of my time,” he says.
“They get you from 7:30am in the morning to 5:30pm in the afternoon, then you have homework and paperwork. I was like, ‘No, I am too young for this.’”
Although Eustaquio chose to leave the profession, his respect for education remains high after spending so long studying for his degrees.
“Education is about learning and growing. It is about self-improvement – not just in the physical capacity, but also the mental and spiritual kind,” he explains.
“Our culture treats education as a passport to a high-paying job. Ever since we were young, we were taught that we had to study hard in school in order to get into a good company.
“For me, education is more than that. It is a pathway to becoming a better person.”
Eustaquio’s Big Moment
That pathway has taken Eustaquio deep into the world of mixed martial arts, where he has been a faithful student of Sangiao’s, and a loyal member of Team Lakay.
It took him some time to adapt to every aspect of the sport, but “Gravity” is now a well-rounded athlete, with high-level skills in every facet of the game.
That was evident in January, when he defeated former titleholder Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov via unanimous decision for the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship.
Now, Eustaquio is looking to up the ante and become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion. He can accomplish that by defeating his former adversary, Moraes, at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER.
While “Mikinho” overwhelmed the Filipino with his jiu-jitsu ability and submitted him via guillotine choke in their first encounter nearly four years ago, “Gravity” is eager to show the Brazilian just how much he has evolved.
The former teacher has learned, and this time, he hopes he will be the one to give the lesson.
“I have worked extremely hard to get to this point, because deep inside, I knew we would meet again. Now I can finally give him a better fight,” Eustaquio states.
“If God permits, the result will be different this time. I am treating this bout as the most significant of my time as a professional mixed martial artist, but because of my hard work and preparations, all that is left is to give the performance of a lifetime.”
Macau | 23 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast