ONE Championship’s athletes are often seen as heroes by fans and young martial artists around the world, but those superstars also look up to role models in their own lives.
Whether it’s a parent, someone who fights for justice, a coach, or even a stranger, true heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
In celebration of those amazing people, let’s hear from several ONE Championship competitors as they describe the heroics that have impacted their personal journeys.
“My hero is my father. I have a memory that remains in my mind clearly. Whenever I face difficulties, I remember it.
“He passed away due to cancer six years ago. The disease developed quickly, and it only took about three months after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“My father suffered from pain 24 hours a day, and he was heavily damaged both mentally and physically. One of my father’s strong points was his strong physique. But since the pain was intolerable, he was not able to walk on his own and had to use a wheelchair to go see a doctor.
“Although he was in this condition, he declared clearly in front of the doctor, ‘I will have surgery,’ wishing to increase his lifespan even though it would just be a little bit longer. Despite the pain, he did not give up on living – not for himself, but for his family.
“The bravery he showed me was unforgettable.
“He was not able to undergo the surgery because the doctor decided his body couldn’t take it. However, he kept smiling until the last moment, trying to be mindful of others. He was always kind to others, even when his condition was severe.
“He showed how I should live through his own experience. I haven’t met a braver hero than my father.”
“My hero is my coach, Mark Sangiao.
“I saw how he turned nothing into something. It started with just a spark – or what we call passion. And because of his passion, he created a den of champions – athletes who are World Champions in mixed martial arts and also World Champions in the community.
“He is an example to me of ‘possible’ – for him, there is no such thing as impossible if there is passion and hard work. I’m really moved by his passion and the way he works. With the right attitude, he turned nothing into something because, if you really get into the beginnings of Team Lakay, we started with nothing.
“It really started with nothing. We had some mats and a small gym. We began to improve and now, we’re recognized worldwide. We’ve produced seven World Champions in different martial arts organizations.
“It is so motivating and encouraging to look back at the life of this guy. He really proved to each and every one of the doubters that ‘impossible’ is nothing – that with hard work and passion, you can turn the impossible into possible.”
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“When I was around 20 years old, I saw a man who fought with another guy who had a knife at the station in Tokyo. The man submitted the knife guy and called the police, even though he got some cuts.
“I was watching the incident from approximately five meters away. I felt ashamed because I was just watching and doing nothing.
“If the same thing happens, I would like to help other people by risking my life, even though I would be scared.”
“My hero is someone who raises their voice about what they consider wrong inside of an organization – regardless of their position.
“Or the person who offers to help an elderly person who’s trying to climb stairs with luggage – even when others around them are hesitant to do so.
“After watching those people, I try to be more like them.”
“For me, I would say that in the fight game, one of the bravest acts was by my sister.
“Going into her second title defense, she was working her way down to make 115 pounds (52.2 kilograms) for her defense against Istela Nunes.
“The week of the fight, she got extremely sick and went into the hospital, and the doctor told her she had pneumonia. She had to take antibiotics for it, which made [everything] much harder because it held onto the water.
“She managed to make weight and went in there, and she finished her opponent in the second round with an anaconda choke. That’s the biggest act of courage that I’ve seen in the fight game, and I give her props for that.
“[ONE Championship Chairman and CEO] Chatri Sityodtong told her that she didn’t have to take the fight. She’s the one who said she wanted to fight no matter what. I give her so much credit for that.”
“A lot of people had celebrity heroes growing up, but for me, it was always my parents.
“Just seeing them work so hard and always looking out for us and wanting what’s best for us, they really gave us such a great life. The life we have today is because of them and their sacrifice and hard work, so they are my ultimate heroes.”