‘It’s In Our Blood’ – How Warrior Roots Helped Filipino-American Phenom Sean Climaco Earn A ONE Championship Contract

Sean Climaco

Sean Climaco is the latest United States-based striker with big dreams of making a name for himself in ONE Championship.

The 29-year-old will debut in a flyweight Muay Thai clash against Josue “Tuzo” Cruz at ONE Fight Night 22: Sundell vs. Diachkova on Prime Video, and he knows it’s a huge opportunity to take his career to the next level.

There was a point when Climaco thought he’d have to give up on his goal of becoming a professional athlete, but he’s now set to compete on the biggest platform of all – live in U.S. primetime on Friday, May 3.

Find out how the rising star overcame his doubts, won himself a contract with the world’s largest martial arts organization, and earned this chance to compete at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Growing Up On Bruce Lee

Climaco was born and raised in the city of Fremont in California’s Bay Area. His parents moved from the Philippines to the United States, where they found work and started their family.

It was a fairly normal childhood for the youngster, with iconic martial arts films playing a prominent role in his early interests.

Climaco recalled:

“Originally, my parents are from the Philippines, so I’m Filipino-American. I have a younger brother, Mark.

“When I was a child growing up, I really liked watching a lot of martial arts films, stuff related to fighting, like Bruce Lee and Rocky.

“Me and my brother were also pretty aggressive towards each other growing up, so we would play fight till we got in trouble.”

Finding The Right Outlet

Climaco and his younger brother’s inclination to fight was a common theme, but fortunately, their father knew a proper way to channel that aggression.

As an avid martial artist who didn’t have the same opportunities back home in the Philippines, he initially enrolled the young duo into MMA classes at American Kickboxing Academy to use their energy productively.

Looking back on his father’s nudge toward the gym, Climaco said:

“My dad actually was the one that really got me and my brother into it. He was doing karate and boxing when he was growing up, but it’s something he never got to do the way my brother and I are doing it now.

“We both started training together. I was 14 and he was 11. He’s gone on to be a pro MMA fighter, and I’m a pro Muay Thai fighter.”

Along with the actors he watched in movies, Climaco also saw Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao’s incredible success in boxing and took motivation from that.

In fact, it ignited Climaco’s warrior spirit – a part of his heritage that he believes is ingrained into his DNA:

“I idolized Bruce Lee and Rocky, and then, also being Filipino, Manny Pacquiao as I grew older watching him fight. But it wasn’t just those influences that got us into fighting. I think it’s in our blood too.

“The part of the Philippines my family is from is called Cebu [City], and people from that city of the Philippines are known as fighters and warriors.

“If you’re from that part of the Philippines, you’re considered to have a strong heart and fighting spirit.”

Finding His Purpose In Life

With an affinity for striking, Climaco stuck with his kickboxing and Muay Thai training throughout high school, but although he loved it, it wasn’t anything more than a hobby for a long time.

However, when he graduated and didn’t have any other goals in mind, he decided to dive into his passion under the guidance of coach Rudi Ott.

Climaco explained:

“I didn’t really have a direction after high school. I didn’t know what to do career-wise. Luckily, I had training still going on. I’m like, ‘Alright, I’ve been doing this long enough. Why not go as far as you can with it?’

“That’s when I started to compete more seriously, getting more fights, being more active, and from that point on, it took about another five years to finally decide it was time to turn pro.

“I dropped out of college, became a pro. Then I quit my full-time job and dedicated my whole self to fighting and teaching at the gym, finally living the fighter lifestyle.”

Of course, this career path is always a risk, with the chances of making it slim and the life of a fighter fraught with danger.

It almost came crashing down when a serious knee injury briefly derailed Climaco’s journey – but that’s when ONE came into view at just the right time:

“One of the biggest obstacles that I had overcome was getting back from tearing my ACL. When that happened, I didn’t really know where my career would go. I thought I was gonna end up stopping fighting. And who knew if my knee would ever be the same again?

“Luckily, I had this opportunity to compete in the Road to ONE. It just so happened to start at the same time as I was ready to fight again after doing my knee rehab.

“I won the Road to ONE tournament for the U.S. and now I’m in ONE, something that I didn’t even see after I tore my knee. I thought I was done.”

Reaching The Global Stage

The timing was impeccable for Climaco, as it offered him a much-needed lifeline in the sport.

The Fremont native was already a fan of ONE, but with the U.S. Muay Thai scene not offering many routes toward the big leagues, he thought it was out of reach.

Winning the Road to ONE tournament with a trio of knockout victories changed his life, and now, the Filipino-American can see a bright future in “the art of eight limbs”:

“I first heard of ONE in 2019. At that time, I was only a year into my pro career, and I thought, ‘Oh damn, that’s pretty cool that they’re doing Muay Thai in the MMA gloves.

“I wasn’t really sure how I would eventually get in there because it looked like a lot of the guys, especially the male fighters, were all international. There weren’t really any American fighters, so I didn’t really see myself fighting in ONE until the Road to ONE, honestly.

“I’m just very fortunate that they had a Road to ONE tournament here in the U.S., and I’m grateful to Warriors Cup for including me in that tournament because I didn’t think I’d end up fighting on the highest level.”

With his debut now beckoning, Climaco is thrilled to be competing among the world’s most elite striking superstars.

The number of eyeballs tuning in on May 3 will be much higher than anything he’s experienced before, and “The One” is eager to deliver an impressive performance to prove he belongs.

He added:

“I’m really excited to test myself against the best in the world.”

“Of course, I’m training harder than ever, but that’s what you have to do when you get called to fight in one of the biggest organizations in the world.

“I’m just trying to get my feet wet and show the world who Sean ‘The One’ Climaco is.”

  • Header photo by Walt Zink

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