Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan has the chance to become one of the top contenders in ONE Championship’s strawweight division if he can start to build a winning streak at ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT on 10 May.
The Filipino hero is riding high after scoring a huge win against a hometown hero in Stefer Rahardian in Jakarta, Indonesia this January.
Almost every martial arts fan in the building cheered loudly for their countryman, but Catalan ultimately claimed the unanimous decision victory thanks to a fantastic all-around performance.
Robin Catalan silences the hometown crowd with a powerful unanimous decision victory over Stefer Rahardian!Watch the full event LIVE & FREE on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, January 19, 2019
“It helped a lot [in building my confidence] because he came in with a lot of hype, and getting a win over him in front of his home crowd like that helps me boost my stock in the division,” he says.
“I understand that it doesn’t get any easier now, as our opponents get stronger and stronger as I work my way up the division. I need to train even harder to get those wins.”
The 28-year-old will now face another local favorite when he travels to Bangkok, Thailand to face Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit at the Impact Arena.
Even before he steps under the lights, Catalan admits he feels the weight of the challenge he will face as a raucous home crowd cheers their hero on.
“I still have the same feeling as when I faced Stefer – there’s a bit of pressure competing in front of a partisan crowd, but I need to win,” he explains.
However, “The Ilonggo” has ways of coping with that mental burden. They gave him the strength to overcome every obstacle in Indonesia, and he expects the same result this time around.
“The first thing that was running in my head was that I needed to win for my team and for my family,” he says.
“I also prayed to have the confidence to stand in the middle of the cage and execute our game plans well.
“When you’re inside the cage, all that pressure really is drowned out by my competitive spirit, and I’m going all out.”
Only ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and top contender Hayato Suzuki have managed to stop Mitsatit’s momentum so far in his career. The 22-year-old has proved he is one of the most dangerous athletes in his division by clinching all but one of his nine victories by stoppage – including seven knockouts.
One of those was a first-round finish of one of the Catalan brothers, Rabin, and Robin is using that result to fuel him during his training camp, and the match itself.
“Avenging my brother’s loss is also one of my main motivations for wanting to win this match so badly,” he says.
While his older brother is not a full-time part of the Catalan Fighting Systems (CFS) team, “The Ilonggo” reveals that Rabin has dropped by to offer whatever advice he can to aid his brothers in their preparation for this pivotal bout.
“He’s actually helping us with formulating our game plans because he has first-hand experience against him,” he explains.
“I saw that [Mitsatit] is pretty adept at striking, so that’s probably one of the things I need to watch out for. However, I can go toe-to-toe with him with strikes.”
“Our game plan will focus on exploiting his weaknesses. My wrestling and ground game will definitely be a problem for him. Of course, he’ll get an idea about where I perform at my best when he watches videos of my bouts, but I’ll let him see how much I’ve improved when we face each other.”
A win for the former IFMA World Muay Thai Champion would be his second in a row against a talented member of the strawweight roster, and it would push him up the division’s pecking order toward a World Title shot.
However, for now, he is cautious about balancing his own dream and his team’s goals.
“I hope that there’s a chance [for me to compete for the belt], but I know that my kuya [CFS Coach Rene Catalan] is also a top contender in our division, so I’m looking to help prepare him to get his shot first,” he says.
“Of course, I have my dreams of getting a World Title opportunity as well in the future, so I’ll keep on working on that.”
Bangkok | 10 May | 6:30PM | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onewarriors19