A thriving career inside the ONE Championship cage among the world’s best martial artists is certainly not an easy one. Years of hard work and training precede the glitz and glamour of superstardom.
Many of our heroes have come from varied martial arts backgrounds, such as Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. But the spectacular art of wushu has given birth to many of the most talented athletes in ONE today, particularly in the Philippines, where the sport is incredibly popular.
In fact, wushu has led a few competitors to capturing world championships, and many others to challenging for a world title. Here are four of ONE’s most successful wushu athletes, who just happen to all be Filipino.
Eduard “Landslide” Folayang is perhaps the most well-known Filipino martial artist of modern times, apart from boxing legend Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. The 34-year-old is a pioneer of Team Lakay, and a highly-decorated wushu athlete.
The Baguio City native has won several international wushu tournaments, including a gold medal performance at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, which he won with a flashy spinning back fist knockout in the final. He has also earned two gold medals at the event in 2003 and 2005, a silver medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, and bronze medals at the 2002 Busan Asian Games and the 2005 World Wushu Championships.
After a successful wushu stint, Folayang transitioned to the cage in 2007, and is now a 10-year veteran of the sport. He headlined ONE’s inaugural show in 2011, and has since become one of the organization’s top lightweights. The Filipino’s greatest victory came in 2016, when he knocked out Japanese legend Shinya Aoki to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion.
Also a veteran of the now world-famous Team Lakay, Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio is one of the promotion’s most talented martial artists, and an accomplished wushu practitioner.
After witnessing local athletes in Baguio City perform near his home, Eustaquio was inspired to train in the martial arts, and discovered wushu at age 14. He earned a scholarship to the University Of The Cordilleras in 2005, and that is where he met legendary martial arts coach Mark Sangiao. The coach mentored “Gravity,” and under Sangiao’s guidance, he secured a spot on the Philippine National Wushu Team.
In 2011, Eustaquio transitioned to the martial arts cage, winning his first two bouts by spectacular finish. He joined ONE in 2012, and in his promotional debut, decisioned Brazil’s Alex Silva, who is now the reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion.
Over the next six years, the Filipino elevated up the ranks as one of the promotion’s top flyweights, even challenging Adriano Moraes for the inaugural flyweight world title. Though he lost that match, he eventually became a world champion, as he defeated Kairat Akhmetov at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES on Friday, 26 January to become the new ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion.
Known as one of the strongest and most devastating knockout artists in ONE, Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon lived a simple life as a farmer’s son in a small village in Ifugao. It was not until he was 17 years old that he found his true calling.
Belingon had ambitions of becoming a police officer when he enrolled in the University Of The Cordilleras, but instead discovered the martial art of wushu when he met Sangiao, who serves as the head of the school’s wushu program. Not long after, “The Silencer” became a founding member of Team Lakay, even before the team was officially formed.
He soon made his cage debut in 2007, winning his first nine contests. After a rough start to his ONE career in 2012, Belingon later found his groove, and he become known as one of the promotion’s most powerful punchers. Five of his eight victories inside the ONE cage have come by scintillating knockout finish.
In 2016, Belingon would challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for the title, but ultimately lost via submission in the first round. Since that defeat, however, the Ifugao native has rallied to win his next four bouts against top-caliber opponents, putting him once again at the front of the line for another world title shot.
39-year-old Rene “The Challenger” Catalan also found his martial arts roots competing on the Philippine National Wushu Team. However, instead of joining another camp, Catalan opted to move to Manila and establish his very own gym, Catalan Fighting Systems.
Catalan is the most highly-decorated wushu artist in ONE Championship. He is a two-time Wushu World Champion, and a two-time Wushu World Cup winner. In 2006, he even added a gold medal in wushu at the Asian Games to his trophy cabinet.
“The Challenger” made his ONE debut in 2013, and although he suffered a rough start, he would experience an epic resurgence. Currently, he is on a four-bout win streak, and he has broken into the upper tier of ONE’s stacked strawweight division.
Also, Catalan has emerged as a respected Philippines martial arts coach. He is guiding the careers of his younger brothers, as well as training unbeaten women’s atomweight superstar Jomary Torres, whom is experiencing great success herself.