ONE Championship standout Geje Eustaquio believes his success has come with a bit of luck, although he has always possessed the drive and talent necessary to achieve his goals.
The 28-year-old has capitalized on every opportunity that has come his way, and rarely moves without calculation, much like his dazzling wushu style.
As a result, Eustaquio earned himself a Master’s degree, and is a perennial contender in ONE Championship’s flyweight division. However, his parents did not always support his martial arts pursuits. In fact, they discouraged him from it during his childhood.
The Filipino known as “Gravity” was raised in a peaceful mountain community in the Benguet province, and his parents stressed an importance on education. All other activities and interests took a distant backseat to acquiring a much-desired college degree.
While Eustaquio’s two sisters have embarked on more secure career paths in nursing and engineering, he planned on invoking his culture’s Igorot warrior spirit, and testing his skills in battle.
“In our region, our culture is simple. You go to school, you graduate with your degree, and you go find a job,” he says.
“When I was in college, [my parents] did not want me to play sports because it was a distraction. They did not want me to do martial arts, but I was a hard-headed boy and I was stubborn. I wanted to prove to them that I could do a lot of things at the same time.”
As a teenager, Eustaquio first took an interest in kickboxing, which paved the way for other disciplines. He did not have to travel far from home to watch the inspiring action up close and personal.
“In our community, there is small local kickboxing promotion. I used to watch those events. I got encouraged. I wanted to be those guys. I wanted to stand up and compete, so I looked for a gym to train,” he explains.
While attending Baguio City National High School, Eustaquio found the perfect place to kick off his martial arts journey with wushu. At 14, he was a big dreamer, and he put in the work to make his lofty goals become a reality. He remained dedicated to his craft and cultivated his talent.
“I just did my best,” he says. “And then, the opportunities came.”
He was selected to be on the junior Philippine national team for wushu, and by the time he graduated from high school in 2005, had earned a wushu scholarship to the University Of The Cordilleras. Like many others, Eustaquio then moved to the university to train under the national team’s head coach, Mark Sangiao, who was highly-regarded as an inspirational figure.
In 2009, Eustaquio earned a Bachelor’s degree in education, and then taught in school for a year. However, he quickly realized that his heart yearned for the challenging world of martial arts, and not the classroom.
“I was done with my degree,” he remembers. “I was so excited to apply it to my work. Then I tried it for a year. My world became so small. My job took all of my time. 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.’”
Eventually, he would return to school and receive his Master’s degree in physical education in 2016.
Then another opportunity arose in February 2011, when a Filipino promotion was in desperate need of some competitors. Eustaquio, who had semi-regularly trained out of Sangiao’s Team Lakay camp, was encouraged by his coach to test his skills inside the cage.
“Coach Mark said, ‘Why not try?,’” he recalls of their simple conversation. “So I said, ‘Let’s go!’’’
Eustaquio knocked out his opponent within a minute of the opening bell. His professional career has been on the rise ever since. Now on the global stage of ONE Championship, Eustaquio is regarded as one of the most talented strikers in the promotion.
In 2014, Eustaquio’s hard work paid off, as he was granted a shot at the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Championship against current titleholder Adriano Moraes. Although he was unsuccessful in his first world title bid, “Gravity” took the loss as a learning experience, vowing to earn another crack at ONE gold.
Fast forward to a few years later, and Eustaquio once again finds himself with another world title shot. With Moraes taking a break from competition, the Filipino is scheduled to meet former flyweight kingpin Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov in a five-round rematch to crown the ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in Manila this coming Friday, 26 January.
The two initially met last September in the headlining bout of ONE: TOTAL VICTORY. It was a stirring three-round affair, with both men having their moments. Eustaquio nearly finished Akhmetov in the first round, but ended up on the wrong end of a split decision.
“Gravity” promises he has grown from their first encounter, and hopes to achieve a different result in their upcoming rematch to capture the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship.
“This is the most important bout of my career so far. I have to prove that I have learned from my mistakes in the first bout,” Eustaquio says. “If I can defeat Akhmetov and claim the interim title, then it will send a message that I am ready to face Adriano Moraes again. There can only be one champion, and this is the first step to determining who is the best at flyweight.”
With the support of his hometown crowd, Eustaquio feels this is his time to shine. Nearly four years after his failed title bid, he once again finds the flyweight world title within arm’s reach. But to claim success, he has to overcome a monumental challenge in defeating Akhmetov once and for all.
“We shall see, by the time we enter the cage. God willing, I will win this bout,” he continues. “I have been working very hard with my teammates, covering all bases and improving all aspects of my game. I am ready.”
A victory in his next bout is all Eustaquio needs to reach the pinnacle of his career, and it is a lifelong dream that he is prepared to do everything in his power to achieve.