After an injury kept him out of action for nearly a year and a half, Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad is ready to make his return to the cage.
The 30-year-old wants to become one of the best Thai martial artists on the planet and a leader for the growing mixed martial arts movement in his home country, and a victory in his forthcoming bout will push him closer to that goal.
“I do not really have pressure at this moment, but I try to give everything I have to be on top,” he says. “It is more of an honor to represent Thailand than pressure.”
“Mak,” as he is called, is a kickboxer who holds a black belt in Shihaishinkai karate and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He trains out of Phuket Top Team and has a professional record if 5-2, with three of those wins coming by way of TKO.
The last time Bunrad competed inside the ONE Championship cage was in December 2015 at ONE: KINGDOM OF KHMER, where he lost to Malaysian sensation Gianni Subba via split decision. Seven and a half months before that, however, he edged out Eustaquio in their first meeting via split decision at ONE: VALOR OF CHAMPIONS.
Although the Thai has been out of action for the past seventeen months, he is excited to resume his career and defeat his former rival in a more convincing fashion.
“I am training hard, of course. I fight to win,” Bunrad says. “It is a rematch, and for me, I am coming back after an injury, so the mental motivation is there for us both.”
Eustaquio is motivated to not only redeem himself, but to start anew in ONE’s thrilling flyweight division. The 28-year-old Filipino is a wushu-sanda expert who trains out of the Baguio City-based Team Lakay camp. He hold a commendable 8-5 professional record, with two victories coming by TKO and another pair by submission.
Since losing to Bunrad in their first affair, “Gravity” came back strong. He knocked out Saiful “The Vampire” Merica, and scored a unanimous decision win over Subba himself.
Though he succumbed to a rear-naked choke at the hands of Toni Tauru at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION last December in a bantamweight encounter, the loss made him realize that a move back down to flyweight was necessary for his mixed martial arts future.
Now, he has the rare dual opportunity to impress in his reopened flyweight campaign and claim revenge against his old nemesis. “Mak” respects Eustaquio and all of his accomplishments, but believes he is the more complete warrior.
“He is a smart guy. He has very good wushu, and he is respectful,” Bunrad offers, “But I am a complete mixed martial artist. I am always working on my weaknesses so I can be as complete as possible.”
Evidently, the Thai believes this rematch will end “just like the first fight,” with his hand raised in the air. For Bunrad, this may be his most important bout yet. He has endured quite a lengthy absence from competition and just recovered from an injury, so a victory here could get him back on solid footing in his career.
“I am really happy to be back, and I will give everything to win,” he says. “It is not just a comeback. Fans will not be disappointed.”