Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio can finally call himself a world champion.
The Filipino hero realized his lifelong dream of becoming one on Friday, 26 January, at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in Manila, as he defeated Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov via unanimous decision to capture the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship.
Eustaquio has waited for this moment ever since he was a teenager watching kickboxing bouts in the Philippines’ Benguet province. Now, at the age of 28, that moment has arrived, yet the work has only just begun.
In this exclusive interview, Eustaquio speaks for the first time since winning the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship. He talks about his epic victory, his rigorous preparation at Team Lakay, and his thoughts on a future world title unification match.
ONE Championship: Last week, you achieved your dream by capturing the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship. Tell us what you are feeling right now.
Geje Eustaquio: It is an amazing feeling. I am a little overwhelmed by it all. In this game, you never know how things will turn out. Even if you put in the hard work and train hard every single day, there is no guarantee [you will win the world title]. Even the best have their bad days in the cage, which is why, by the grace of God, this victory has come at the perfect time.
All my sacrifices have paid off, and now it is an awesome feeling to bring this belt back home to Baguio City. Like I said before, this is not just my belt; this is ours. I share this victory will the Filipino people and everyone who has supported my career.
ONE: You faced a former world champion in Kairat Akhmetov, who used his grappling to defeat you last September. How were you able to counter his wrestling?
GE: Kairat Akhmetov is a world-class wrestler. He could take me down at any moment. In the three rounds that I had faced him prior, I became very familiar with his abilities. Although I successfully kept him out of range for the majority of the bout, there was always the feeling that he could close the gap very quickly and take me down to the ground.
But I trusted in my team, and one of the things we worked on was how to bring the bout back to the feet. If he was able to take me down to the ground, we made sure I could get back up. This is a result of thousands of sprawls and wrestling drills. We really did not stop until I could get it perfect. I still have a lot to improve on, but this was definitely one of the things we worked on for this match.
ONE: What was the big difference in this match, as compared to your first encounter with Akhmetov?
GE: The difference was that in the rematch, I dictated the pace of the action. In the first bout, Kairat was able to dictate a lot of the pace. I was basically playing catch up, and followed him around the cage. This time, I made sure that we competed at my pace.
The key was to strike first, and strike often. I knew I had the advantage in the stand-up game, and I had to let him know that, too. The first time we met, he grew confident of his ability to trade with me. I had to take that back in the rematch. It was not an easy task, but thankfully, I was able to do it.
ONE: What does winning the ONE Flyweight World Championship mean to you?
GE: Winning the world title is a dream come true for me. Ever since I started my martial arts career, the goal was to be a world champion. Now, that goal is a reality. But it was not smooth sailing. Along the way, there were lots of trials and challenges I had to overcome. Every athlete dreams of becoming a world champion. My path was not the easiest, but I always knew what I had to do to achieve it.
ONE: As a world champion, what do you strive for, and what do you hope to represent?
GE: I strive to be a champion of humility, respect, and courage. Just like my brothers Eduard Folayang and Honorio Banario before me, who have always maintained their humility in both victory and defeat, I strive to be as great a world champion.
I am still very hungry to develop my skills. Just because I have this belt, it does not mean that I am going to stop striving to improve. I am a world champion who aims to glorify God in everything that I do, and inspire the world by showcasing my talents in the cage. This is what I love to do. This is my passion.