Ultimately, the 19-year-old son of famed Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao rose to the task and submitted Paul “The Great King” Lumihi in the first round of their clash at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night.
It was an impressive victory for the Filipino phenom, whose well-rounded mixed martial arts arsenal combines Team Lakay’s signature wushu striking with a potent ground game.
And given the weight of expectation that was placed on his shoulders, “The Machine” was thrilled to perform at a high level in front of his father.
“[My dad] was so happy to see that I did my best and executed everything that we prepared for,” Sangiao says.
“Of course, there was pressure on my end, especially before the bout, but I didn’t look at it negatively. I used it as motivation for me to be more pumped up in the back.”
That emotion exposed itself to the world when the teenager walked down the ONE Championship ramp for the first time and unleashed a roar.
“I let it all out to unload some pressure,” he says. “I was just so pumped up that all I could do was scream when I was entering the Circle.”
That release did the trick, as Sangiao looked composed at the start of round one – even when Lumihi avoided the touch of gloves and jerked forward. “The Machine” didn’t flinch and responded by popping his rival with a hook-cross combination.
From that point on, he dominated the Indonesian, blasting forward with flurries of strikes and landing a takedown.
It was a perfect opener for the Baguio City native, who pushed his unbeaten MMA record to 4-0 and continued to grow his self-belief.
“It didn’t cross my mind [to finish it so early]. I was just focused on what I should be doing inside the Circle. Whether I finish it early or not, the goal is to win,” Sangiao says.
“This will further boost my confidence because now I know the feeling of competing inside the Circle. In this match, I was just testing the waters first because it was only my debut, but I believe I did my best.”
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Buoyed by his first promotional victory and surrounded by elite training partners at Team Lakay – which has produced five MMA World Champions in ONE – “The Machine” is certain that he can mix it up with the best on the global stage.
“Given that I roll and spar with World Champions in the gym, I had the confidence rolling with [Lumihi],” he says.
“I kept thinking that if I can compete with my brothers in the gym, like Stephen [Loman], Kevin [Belingon], and Jeremy [Pacatiw], I know that I can compete with anyone in front of me.”
It’s clear the young athlete believes the sky is the limit for his mixed martial arts career. And with a convicing win in the bag, he feels ready to follow in the footsteps of his Baguio City brothers.
“I’ve been training hard to move up and be prepared for I face in the bantamweight division. I just plan on giving my best so each time I get in there,” Sangiao adds.
“Fans should always expect the best from me, and it starts with training up until the fight night. I want to show that I too can become a World Champion.”