Danny “The King” Kingad (9-1) says his journey to mixed martial arts success would not have been possible without the guidance of one man.
The Filipino wushu prodigy is now trying to build some momentum towards a second crack at the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
In order to get a victory over the Chinese national wrestling champion, Kingad is relying once again on Mark Sangiao. The Team Lakay head coach is designing a formidable game plan, and training his student to execute it to perfection.
With his mentor by his side, “The King” feels like he there is no limit to what he can achieve.
“Having a coach like him is one of the most important parts of my career,” the 22-year-old says. “I cannot reach my true potential without proper guidance. But with Coach Mark, I feel like anything is possible.”
The pair have a close relationship. After all, it was Sangiao who gave the young Filipino some much-needed direction, at a time in his life when it was heading off the rails.
When Kingad was 8 years of age, he tragically lost his dad. Without a strong male role model to guide him, he went down a potentially destructive path in the years to follow. He frequently skipped school, sold bootleg merchandise, and even slept on the streets.
“When my father passed away, I fell into a bad place in my life,” Kingad admits. “I had a lot of vices, and my studies suffered.”
Fortunately, at the beginning of his junior year of high school, the misguided youth stumbled onto the right path.
Thanks to his cousin and Team Lakay member Roldan Sangcha-an, Kingad was introduced to wushu. He excelled in the discipline, and dedicated himself to his training.
That paid off when he earned a scholarship to attend the University Of The Cordilleras to compete on the school’s wushu squad. Sangiao, a well-respected Filipino martial arts pioneer, served as the head of both the college’s wushu program and Team Lakay.
Following Sangiao’s instruction, Kingad continued to excel in wushu on the collegiate level. He became a regional champion, and built an impressive 29-1 record in the discipline.
He continued to develop as a person, and a competitive mixed martial artist with Sangiao by his side.
“Coach Mark is like a second father to me, because he does not just teach me what he knows about martial arts. He also gives me advice in my personal life, and how to be a better person,” Kingad explains.
“He has taught me a lot, and I have learned so much from him – like how to deal with criticism, how to conduct myself in public, to give respect to everybody, and of course, how to live like a true martial artist.
“The great thing about Coach Mark is that he has so much experience, and a lot of stories to share that we all learn from. I have taken that to heart. A lot of the values I live by, I have learned from Coach Mark. He has been a major influence in my life.”
It appears Sangiao has truly embraced the fatherly role – not just to Kingad, but to Team Lakay as a whole.
Under his tutelage, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, Honorio “The Rock” Banario, and Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio have reached the pinnacle of mixed martial arts by becoming ONE World Champions. What’s more, many others are elite, longstanding members of the promotion’s roster.
Sangiao treats his pupils like his own flesh and blood, and with each of his students’ popularity on the rise, they face more and more distractions.
The Team Lakay general knows some of the Baguio City camp’s young athletes are bound to make mistakes outside the gym, but he is always on hand to help his warriors see the error of their ways, help them through their problems, and put them back on the road to success.
“If one of us had done something that was distasteful, we would immediately get a call,” Kingad says. “Coach Mark would want to have a talk and ask us what happened, what we did wrong, and then give us advice.
“This has had a huge impact in my life. With my father gone, Coach Mark really stepped up as a sort of role model for me, and one that I could learn from.”
Under Sangiao, “The King” has become one of ONE Championship’s premier flyweights.
Despite suffering the only defeat of his mixed martial arts career to the division’s kingpin Adriano Moraes last November, he rebounded impressively with a decision victory over Sotir Kichukov in March.
If he can achieve another victory at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, using the improved abilities he showed off in his last contest, he will not be far away from another opportunity at his division’s top prize.
As he heads towards that goal, Sangiao will be by Kingad’s side to provide invaluable guidance – both in his career and in life.
“I have met many coaches, and I know it is not right to compare, because everyone has their own strengths, but Coach Mark is unique,” Kingad explains.
“You just cannot find another coach like him. He really treats us as more than his pupils. He treats us like family, like we are his sons and brothers.
“If he was not my coach, I know for sure I would not have reached the success I have today.”