Jenel Lausa was once at the top of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. The Filipino fighter had everything he ever wanted as an athlete in the sport, but in an instant, all of that was taken away from him.
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From 2014 to 2016, Lausa defeated every opponent that was thrown at him, including a split decision win over Team Lakay’s Crisanto Pitpitunge for the vacant Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) flyweight championship. His remarkable run in the now-defunct Guam-based organization got him noticed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). And, in 2016, he got counted among the handful of Filipinos to have ever fought for the promotion.
Lausa started off on the right foot. He defeated China’s Yao Zhikui via a unanimous decision in his debut in Melbourne, just two months after inking an exclusive contract with UFC.
But ever since his three-round demolition of Yao, Lausa went on a downward spiral. He suffered three consecutive excruciating defeats at the hands of foreign opposition. The string of setbacks began in April 2017, where he dropped a unanimous decision to Russia’s Magomed Bibulatov in front a passionate crowd in Buffalo, New York.
Lausa took another unanimous decision loss to American Top Team’s Eric Shelton, who used takedowns and ground dominance to beat the Filipino. The final nail in the coffin came in June 2018 when he succumbed to Japanese spitfire Ulka Sasaki’s rear-naked choke in the second round.
Following three-straight losses inside the Octagon, UFC had no other choice but to hand him the dreaded pink slip.
“That’s life, and I had to move on,” the Concepcion, Iloilo native says. “I did my best to at least get one win in my last three fights in the UFC, but it is what it is. There are winners and losers in the sport. I had to accept my fate.”
Already having made it to the mecca of MMA, Lausa scoured for a company that would take him in, doing everything he could to explore the free-agent market. But to no avail; he never received a return call from these organizations. That’s when he decided to go back to boxing.
When he was still with PXC, Lausa moonlighted as a boxer to keep himself physically active while waiting for fight offers. He made his first boxing appearance in July 2014, winning against Pinoy journeyman Albert Campilan. From then on, Lausa won six more bouts in emphatic fashion, including a split decision triumph over Jon Jon Estrada to clinch the interim PBF super bantamweight title.
His boxing career was temporarily shelved when he joined UFC as it contractually barred him from competing in other forms of combat sports. But when the company let him go, it allowed him to lace up his boxing gloves once again.
“I love boxing. It is my first love and my first sport. A lot of promoters wanted me back in the ring, so my wife and I talked about it,” he shares. “We came to a decision to compete in boxing again while weighing other options for me out there.”
Although the pugilist holds an impressive track record, his return didn’t start off well. His comeback bout against former Philippine super bantamweight titlist Jhunriel Ramonal resulted in a majority decision.
Admittedly, Lausa saw that fight as a rude awakening, prompting him to acquire the services of former boxer Glenn Mondol as his new trainer. In addition, he moved from Mandaluyong to Makati to train at the MUMMA Fight Club.
With a new team behind him, Lausa found the success that he is longingly looking for, acing three matches in a row with flying colors. In his most recent outing, he knocked out Indonesian slugger Carlos Lopez in the fifth round to capture the GBO Asia Pacific super featherweight title.
Owning an outstanding record of 10-0-1 with six knockouts, the boxing future appears promising for Lausa. Despite the difference in pay grade from what he used to get in the UFC as compared to what he now receives in boxing, he believes that it will be at par once he starts to climb the ranks.
“I hope someday I can fight for a world title, but I am taking it one fight at a time. I am savoring each moment that I have,” says the 31-year-old. “It’s not all about the money. My team and I are happy on how things are going, and it’s different if you do what you love and want most.”
And Lausa is not closing the door on MMA either. But his focus right now is on the opportunities that are presently available to him such as his next fight in Hanoi. The featherweight bout is scheduled for October 19 against hometown favorite Nguyen Van Duong.
“I still can do both. I feel that I still have a lot to learn to be the best. It gives me a different type of challenge,” he says, “and I am here to conquer that challenge and be successful for my family.”