Mixed martial arts may be a one-on-one competition, but the importance of teamwork cannot be overstated.
That is something former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario knows all too well.
Although he will enter the battle all by himself, the entire Team Lakay — as usual — will be supporting him from outside of the cage.
Banario knows the training he has received from the Baguio City, Philippines-based camp, as well as the camaraderie and special bonds he has forged with his teammates over the years, has been crucial to his martial arts success.
“To have people you can rely on — teammates who have your back, and will help you with becoming a better fighter — has been extremely valuable to my career,” the 28-year-old says.
“We support each other, and pull each other up instead of bringing each other down. As an athlete, especially as a martial artist, it is very important to find a place where you know you belong.”
Team Lakay has always supported “The Rock” — even at his lowest point.
When Banario lost the featherweight belt in his first title defense back in May 2013, he went on a subsequent five-bout skid, and even contemplated retirement.
However, his teammates, including his mentor, Eduard Folayang, helped build him back up. They saw potential in the former titleholder, and wanted to see him return to prosperity.
“My team could have given up on me, after losing five in a row. They could have stopped believing in me, and told me to quit,” the Benguet, Philippines native explains.
“But they kept pushing me, and motivating me. You can only have that kind of support with a good team behind you.”
The gym’s head coach, Mark Sangiao, has built a welcoming atmosphere with elite athletes who possess deep-rooted martial arts values, and an unbreakable will to become champions.
That, along with a constant desire to improve, has led the powerhouse stable to becoming the most prolific martial arts team not just in the Philippines, but in all of Asia.
A few of his stablemates have recently captured World Titles, including Geje Eustaquio and Kevin Belingon, who won the ONE Flyweight World Championship and ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship, respectively.
In addition to that, Team Lakay has experienced an extraordinary run in the first half of 2018, winning 13 of 16 bouts in ONE Championship.
According to Banario, there are several reasons for the squad’s immense success, including strong communication, a shared thirst to evolve, and an unshakeable trust that exists far beyond the bond of blood.
“Everyone knows how close we are. We are not just a team, we are brothers. I can say, as a martial artist, this is very important,” he explains.
“It goes past just sharing victories and defeats as a team. We truly grow together, and learn from each others’ mistakes. We feed off the energy, and are motivated to succeed.”
Success breeds success, and that has certainly influenced “The Rock.”
Ever since moving up to the lightweight division in April 2016, Banario has turned his career around, and now he is on a five-bout win streak.
At ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, he could extend his streak to six, and break into the ONE Lightweight World Title picture.
The Filipino knows this will be the toughest test of his eight-year career, but Team Lakay has sharpened both his physical skills and mental fortitude. He wants to make them proud in Shanghai, and continue to fulfill his enormous potential.
“I will never stop believing in myself, because my team will never stop believing in me,” he states.
“My team stands right there beside me, literally drilling with me every day. They push me harder even at my lowest, and their voices are constantly in my ear.
“They remind me every day not to lose hope, and that I am lucky to be doing what I love. It helps me realize that I am capable of so much more than I think.”
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast