Some of the biggest stars of ONE Warrior Series (OWS) have come from the Philippines, and that looks like a trend that is set to continue according to its CEO and series host, Rich Franklin.
As well as contract winners like Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang and Rockie “Waray Warrior” Bactol, the current OWS roster is full of prospects like Ismael Bandiwan, Jerry “Bokodian Warrior” Olsim, and Dave “Kintas” Banguigui, who could also graduate to the global stage if they can maintain their impressive form.
All of this comes as no surprise to Franklin. He has seen the Filipino talent emerge and achieve tremendous success throughout the lifetime of The Home Of Martial Arts thanks to the ingrained warrior spirit of the nation’s people.
For that reason, the three-time World Champion explains that fans can look forward to the rise of some more exciting talent soon.
ONE Championship: How would you explain the progression of Filipino martial artists since you joined ONE?
Rich Franklin: Look at the progression of these Filipino athletes in general in this sport – how many of the Team Lakay members have risen to championship status? Outside of the Lakay team, you have other athletes like Brandon Vera.
This [country] has a culture that has a martial arts-slash-combative mentality to it. From Manny Pacquiao, it’s just there. There’s a natural ability to pick things up.
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ONE: What can you attribute to the Philippines’ growth in mixed martial arts?
RF: I think it’s all about passion and education here. The Filipino martial arts culture is a culture that has a very progressive mentality – they always look for that next step on how to make themselves better.
There are a lot of cultures here that will hold onto what their cultural roots are. Instead of embracing the changes that come, they don’t have that progressive mentality of moving forward. I think that’s what placed [the Philippines] ahead of the curve [compared to] a lot of countries in the world and that’s what will put them there for years to come.
ONE: From the OWS perspective, how big is the potential of these young athletes?
RF: You look at the athletes that have come through OWS. Rockie Bactol, for example, got promoted right away. That was somebody that Chatri (Sityodtong, ONE Chairman and CEO) himself saw some talent in and pushed him in the first event.
The moment that I came up to [the Baguio] area, I saw Lito, and even Jhanlo (Sangiao). Jhanlo is young – this was almost two years ago, so he was just 15 years old. When I saw these two guys, right away, I knew these two guys had a big future.
You see what Lito has done in ONE Warrior Series, graduating to ONE Championship and he’s just making a statement, living up to what I was expecting. I can expect the same from Jhanlo.
Jhanlo is the next generation of athlete, he will be the next generation of Team Lakay and the next big thing in this area. He will be the standard for everything else following him
ONE: Jhanlo is new to many fans, but they will recognize his name because he is the son of Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao. What can we expect from him?
RF: Fortunately-slash-unfortunately he is the son of Mark. Because he is the son of Mark Sangiao, he has big shoes to fill.
There’s going to be a lot of eyeballs and pressure on him to perform at a level that’s to be expected, but devoid of all that, I grappled with him the last time I went up here and make no mistake about it, this is a talented kid.
Coach’s son or not, he’s somebody that the moment he and I had time together, I said, ‘This is somebody I want to have in my organization and regardless of whose kid that is, I would have taken him anyway.’ That’s put a lot of pressure on him because I am expecting a lot out of him. Regardless of whose kid this is, he’s gonna have a lot of eyeballs on him.
ONE: Has Lito Adiwang exceeded your expectations on the main roster?
RF: I don’t think Lito exceeds my expectations and that’s a compliment to him because I have a lot of expectations for him. I knew how talented he was when I first saw him.
You really see it come to fruition every time he competed in ONE Warrior Series, so he didn’t exceed my expectations – I already had the bar set high for him from the very beginning.