The mastermind expects their success to continue this Friday, 27 July, at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila.
Following Geje Eustaquio’s stunning success, Kevin Belingon will be the second team member in two months to bring home a World Title if he defeats two-division ONE World Champion Martin Nguyen. Belingon faces “The Situ-Asian” in the main event for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship.
Also, Eduard Folayang and Joshua Pacio look to secure title shots in their divisions, as they go up against a pair of unbeaten contenders, Russian lightweight Aziz Pahrudinov and strawweight sensation Pongsiri Mitsatit, respectively.
With ONE: REIGN OF KINGS just a few days away, Sangiao talks about Team Lakay’s success, their chances ahead of the big show, and much more.
ONE Championship: Team Lakay has been doing great this year in ONE Championship. What is the key to the team’s success in 2018?
Mark Sangiao: Success is a product of teamwork. All the athletes of Team Lakay do their homework. They put in the time and effort to study their opponents religiously – trying to discover strengths and weaknesses. This game is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, which is something I always try to teach my students.
This year has gone incredibly well for our team, and we are just getting started. We will continue to march towards victory by putting in the hours. Of course, none of it would be possible without all the hard work that we have put in on a daily basis.
Team Lakay is the most dedicated team – everyone comes to work every day. Everyone will continue to improve, and winning will come naturally.
We do not take April and Gina’s losses as defeats. Like we always say, we either win, or we learn. As long as we improve and learn our lessons, we have won. It will only serve to make us better martial artists in the long run.
ONE: How do you expect Kevin Belingon to perform in his ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title match at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS against Martin Nguyen?
MS: Unlike a couple of years ago when Kevin first fought Bibiano Fernandes, the Kevin Belingon of today is fully equipped. He has all the skills necessary, both on the feet and on the ground.
Since that loss to Bibiano, Kevin just put his head down and went back to work, covering any holes in his game. He worked twice as hard to get back to this point, and now that he is here, he is not letting it go to waste. A rematch with Bibiano is at stake here, and Kevin has had the Brazilian in his crosshairs since that fateful night in 2016.
I salute Martin. It is no joke to win two titles in two different weight classes, let alone go for history and aim for a belt in a third weight class. This is going to be one of the greatest World Title fights in the history of ONE Championship.
Martin will be trespassing in Kevin’s territory, however. We have been at this weight class for years, and I would never bet against Kevin as long as the playing field is fair, and the weight limit is reached. Martin is stepping into Kevin’s realm, and that is going to be the biggest difference.
ONE: What are Kevin’s advantages over Martin?
MS: Kevin is comfortable at this weight. He is strong, quick, and very explosive.
We already have a blueprint for facing Martin, with the experience from [his bouts with] Eduard [Folayang] and Edward [Kelly]. We know what to expect, and we expect Martin to be a very intelligent fighter.
There is not much room for error in this match, and given Martin’s powerful right hand, it could end in an instant. But we are prepared for all situations in there. It is going to come down to who can execute their game plan better.
I would say Kevin’s biggest advantage will be his speed and relentlessness. It is one thing to see Kevin perform on TV, but it is completely different when you have to deal with that hand speed and power face-to-face.
The reason Kevin is able to overwhelm so many of his opponents is because of his speed and power. It is a God-given natural talent that cannot be developed. You either have it, or you do not, and Kevin has it. He has used it to perfection over the last few fights.
ONE: What would it mean for another member of Team Lakay to bring home another World Title?
MS: Bringing home another belt will further cement our long-standing tradition of excellence. We are building World Champions. Like we always say, “Champions are not born, they are made.” Through the fires of hard work and dedication, we are able to forge the best fighters in the world.
We have victories over [athletes from] the biggest martial arts powerhouses all over the world, including the United States, Russia, China, Australia, and Brazil. We have proven consistently that Filipinos belong in the discussion of some of the toughest fighters in the world.
Adding another belt to our wall at Team Lakay does not mean we will stop there, however. We will always continue to build World Champions. It is our tradition. These belts are not here for us to sit on. They are here to keep us driven and not remain idle. Can I quote Spider-man? “With great power comes great responsibility” – that is what these titles represent to us.
ONE: What have you worked on with Eduard Folayang to prepare him for his bout with Aziz Pahrudinov?
MS: Eduard will always be Eduard. He is the hardest working guy around. The man has been through so much in his life. I have no doubts about his mental strength, and no questions whatsoever when it comes to his work ethic. His preparations always just come down to polishing and honing his skills.
The talent will always be there, and we are happy to be here guiding him and providing whatever he needs, but the man is a machine. He will train harder than anyone else, and he is committed to excellence. That is the kind of work you can expect from Eduard day in and day out.
With Team Lakay supporting him, victory is always within reach. And of course, his favorite sparring partner, Honorio Banario, will always be by his side.
ONE: What are your thoughts on Joshua Pacio’s bout against Pongsiri Mitsatit?
MS: Joshua and Pongsiri’s fight is what we call a “hunk’s showdown” – the two are like male models looking to be World Champions in mixed martial arts. I am sure it will be a very popular fight for the ladies.
Joking aside, they have proven how good they are, even at their young age. They have incredible potential – just look at their track records. I believe whoever wins this match deserves the next [ONE Strawweight] World Title shot.
This is a battle between two rising stars, and they are very evenly matched. Joshua has been preparing for this bout, and he is now at 100 percent. He cannot wait to get back in there and resume his ascent to the top of his division.