Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan has defeated two of Indonesia’s top strawweight mixed martial artists, and on Friday, 14 January, he’s going for the hat trick.
That evening, the 31-year-old Manila resident squares off against Elipitua “The Magician” Siregar in the opening contest of ONE: HEAVY HITTERS, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Catalan previously defeated Siregar’s compatriot, Adrian “Papua Badboy” Mattheis, and his Bali MMA teammate, Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian, but a victory over a third Indonesian fighter would come at a crucial time for the Filipino rising star.
In addition to elevating his own mixed martial arts career, a win would help the entire Catalan Fighting System community.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the family’s gym relatively hard, as “The Ilonggo” and his older brother, Rene “The Challenger” Catalan, have struggled to keep the doors open.
Also, the Manila strawweight’s older brother is on a three-bout losing streak and nearing retirement. Moreover, their Catalan Fighting System teammate, Jomary “The Zamboanginian Fighter” Torres, is on a tough skid of her own. So, a victory for “The Ilonggo” in Singapore would instill some much-needed confidence and good vibes in the gym’s atmosphere.
Catalan talks about that, and much more, in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: It’s no secret that some of your Catalan Fighting System teammates have suffered tough losses in the Circle lately. That said, how important is your upcoming fight with Elipitua Siregar?
Robin Catalan: In that stretch, I haven’t stopped training. I have been training for a long time knowing that I’ll have to get our gym back on the right track, and now I have that chance. That’s why this match is very important to me. Kuya Rene [Catalan] has been losing. Jomary [Torres] also lost, so it’s up to me now.
I’ve also been hearing a lot of things. Because of our recent results, some fans are beginning to look down on us, so it’s up to me to prove to all the people who’ve been doubting us that we’re here to stay.
ONE: Do you feel like there is pressure on you and the team?
RC: Yeah. We also have to survive not only in the ring, but also in the gym as well. The pandemic hit us really hard, so we’ve really struggled to make ends meet. We really had to work double-time. Aside from protecting the reputation of our gym, a good win here would also help with the gym’s expenses.
ONE: Speaking of your older brother, Rene, what has he been telling you ahead of this match with Siregar?
RC: He just reminds me to stay focused. I have to forget all the things that have happened and focus on this match. He reminds me not to waste a lot of time because the pandemic already did that for us. He also reminds me that he’s close to retiring now, and that I’m going to take care of a lot of things here.
ONE: It sounds like you’re going to be Catalan Fighting System’s main guy when Rene retires. Have you given any thought to that? If so, what’s going through your mind?
RC: There’s a lot of pressure on my end, but I know that he’s also having a hard time. There’s pressure. It’s a big responsibility. I have to make sure to get it right so I can repay him for all the help that he’s given me in my career. That’s where the pressure comes from. I know I have to do it the right way, and it starts with this match.
ONE: Interestingly, you’ve defeated two of Siregar’s compatriots – Adrian Mattheis and Stefer Rahardian. Knowing that, do you think that is motivating Siregar even further?
RC: I know they’re preparing hard to get back at me, but the good thing is that I believe I’m more prepared. I’ve been waiting for this comeback fight for a long time, so I’ve really trained for this. I’ve been ready for a long time.
ONE: What do you view as Siregar’s strengths, and which aspects of his game do you think will give you a hard time?
RC: Since he’s younger, I expect him to be strong and explosive. That doesn’t bother me, though. I believe I’ve prepared for this, and I plan to lean on my experience.
I’ve been through a lot in the Circle. I’ve won and I’ve lost. I experienced facing strong fighters in the past, and I’ve learned from that. That’s why I believe experience is going to be my weapon.
ONE: Siregar comes from a grappling background. In fact, he is an Indonesian Wrestling Champion. How do you prepare for that?
RC: The team has been preparing hard for that. It’s one of the main focuses of our gym, but I’m not worried. I’m confident in my all-around game. Whether in grappling or in striking, I’m prepared to take him on. I think this match will boil down to our conditioning.
ONE: Due to your wushu and Muay Thai background, a lot of critics believe you have the advantage in the striking department. That said, do you think Siregar will trade shots with you?
RC: I think he’ll use it just to set up his takedowns and work on his ground [game]. I’m prepared for that, though. The good thing is that I’ve had a long training camp for this, so I don’t think I’ll have a problem with whatever he wants to do.
ONE: But if the action stays on the feet, do you expect to get the knockout?
RC: Yes. For sure. That’s my target for this match, a knockout win. If he trades with me, that could happen.