How Mark Sangiao Plans To Keep Team Lakay Thriving In 2019

Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao is not only the leader of the Philippines’ most beloved mixed martial arts faction, but he is also a pioneer of the sport and a former champion himself.

Known as “The Machine” during his competition days, Sangiao traded his career in the cage for a chance to guide the next generation of Filipino martial arts superstars. His prized athletes captured five World Titles in 2018 — four under the ONE Championship banner — and the team is already looking forward to a marvelous 2019.

Success has not come easy, however.

Behind the flashy pyrotechnics and the falling confetti is a picture of hard work. The Team Lakay competitors are dedicated to constantly improving and achieving victory, despite working with meager resources from a small, humble gym in the mountains of La Trinidad, Benguet.

Sangiao credits the team’s success to many factors, and recognizes the upcoming challenges in 2019 will be far greater than those of the past 12 months. He speaks about that, and much more, in this exclusive interview.

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Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, January 2, 2019

ONE Championship: Team Lakay garnered many achievements in 2018 and quickly rose to prominence as one of the top martial arts teams in the world. What was it like to experience the team’s success over the past year?

Mark Sangiao: The five World Titles from global promotions and all the accolades we received both domestically and internationally, as well as from various local and national government offices, was definitely the highlight of our year.

The fruits of our labor were well represented, and it is always an honor to be recognized globally for all our efforts. It makes what we do so worth it. It’s what makes what I do so worth it.

I gave up a lot in my personal fight career to be able to lead my brothers and the next generation of Team Lakay athletes. The success of the team is a validation of my decision eight years ago to hang up my gloves and be a full-time coach. Where my athletes are positioned now is my biggest achievement. They are a reflection of myself.

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ONE: We all know success doesn’t come easy. What were some of the biggest hurdles the team had to get through in 2018?

MS: Adversity is second nature to us. One of the secrets to our success has always been our attitude. When our athletes tackle obstacles with the right attitude, we are able to forge a path to victory. In this way, we can learn to handle adversity better.

Over the past year, the team was definitely not without challenges. We battled fatigue, criticism, pressure, and even the elements.

One example was when the Philippines, particularly Baguio City, was hit with big storms. Roads were closed, and it was difficult to get in and out of the city. There were landslides and flash floods. Power outages were rampant.

For an entire week, the Team Lakay gym was without electricity, and we had to train in the pitch darkness. This was during Joshua Pacio’s training camp for the Yoshitaka Naito rematch. But whatever hurdles we faced, we always adjusted.

Fortunately, we are in an area surrounded by beautiful nature, and the outdoors always served well as the best training ground. Together, we were able to overcome adversity. We’ll do the same in 2019.

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ONE: Were you satisfied with how everything turned out?

MS: I am definitely more than satisfied with how things turned out. It was more than I expected. We aimed for victory in every fight, but looking back at it all now, it still amazes me. We have five World Champions in Team Lakay. It’s an amazing feat, but it’s all due to everybody’s hard work and dedication.

I really have the best group of guys. They achieve so much and are laser-focused. Yes, we aren’t without obstacles, but I think it doesn’t matter what we are faced with. These guys power through everything with their positivity and energy. It’s awesome to witness, and I have the best seat in the house.

ONE: Given how the team was so successful last year, do you think 2019 can be even better? Also, what are your personal goals for the year?

MS: It may sound cliche, but with greater achievements and power come greater responsibilities. This rings true for 2019 and beyond.

Right now, we are razor sharp and focused in our training so that we can defend the land and keep the belts in the mountains. A lot of guys are gunning for our World Titles — that’s a given. We will continue to build a strong foundation and improve our skills to keep up with the rest of the fold.

If we trained hard in 2018, you can be sure we are doubling up on that and working twice as hard. The work we put into training camp will dictate our success in 2019. I have the utmost confidence in my team. There is no doubt that we are up for the challenge. We will do our best.

As for my personal goals, I just want the whole team and all our athletes to press forward, and to keep winning and defending [the titles]. I also want to teach more athletes, especially the next generation. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have a better gym and better facilities. That’s something we are currently working on.

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ONE: The ONE Flyweight and Lightweight World Grands Prix take place this year. How do you think Geje Eustaquio and Eduard Folayang stack up against the rest of the athletes in their respective divisions?

MS: We always remain positive. Actually, we take this as a welcome challenge. It’s all very exciting, to be honest.

Geje and Eduard are incredible athletes and tremendous martial artists. They are the hardest workers on the team and are a real inspiration, especially to the younger generation who wish to follow in their footsteps. They serve as role models to the youth.

That being said, they are doing everything they can to be able to give the best performance in their upcoming bouts. The tournament format is a very interesting one, and I think it’s a good way to determine who is the best in the division.

I have complete confidence in my athletes. They will do what is necessary to achieve victory. We always give our all and whatever comes, we work our way through it all.


ONE: 2019 is already trending towards becoming another landmark year for Team Lakay. What do you think the key to success will be?

MS: This game is evolving every second. Right now, there is a martial artist out there developing a new training method, working on a new technique, and building a new set of skills we have never seen before. This is the nature of our sport.

Mixed martial arts is the ultimate proving ground of combat. It combines every style and discipline into one cohesive system. That being said, the key to success is continuous learning.

As martial artists, we have to keep learning and improving — that’s the only way we can win. We have to keep up with the competition and train harder than our opponents. While the rest of the world sleeps, we train, and when the world wakes up, we still train. Hard work, dedication, and learning will bring us success in 2019, despite the challenges we face.