MANILA -- Ernesto "Iron" Montilla Jr. is going back to the drawing board after suffering a painful defeat in his ONE Championship debut last week against Japanese veteran Tatsumitsu "The Sweeper" Wada.
The 31-year-old from Surigao del Norte lost via submission in the first round against Wada in their showdown at ONE Friday Fights 9 in Bangkok, Thailand on March 17.
Wada dropped Montilla to the mat with a solid right straight early in the first round, which gave him the opening to swarm the Filipino with strikes before he latched on a rear-naked choke. Montilla, a former Philippine flyweight champion, did all he could to escape the hold but ultimately had no choice except to tap.
The end came at the 1:52 mark of the opening stanza.
"I didn't know what hit me when he had these exchanges in the pocket. All I remembered was that he's already on my back, and then all of a sudden, I was tapping," Montilla said of the final sequence.
Montilla tasted his first loss since 2015 and fell to a 10-5 record, while Wada improved to a 25-12-2 slate with one no-contest.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Montilla, who had to go through a long, hard, doubt-filled road to get his first international exposure as a mixed martial artist.
However, "Iron" still sees some sort of silver lining.
"When I felt the bright lights, the pressure was heavy. But I cannot deny that I enjoyed the process. Despite the result, I'll be back stronger," he vowed. "What's good is that I faced a high-level fighter. Now, I know that I have to level up for me to keep up with the gold standard."
The ONE Warriors Series Philippines alumnus stressed that he has no plans to take some time off to reassess his future because he wants to go back to training as soon as possible.
"I have a lot of adjustments to work on, like my jiu-jitsu, my patience, and of course, being explosive," he shared. "Facing Wada in my debut is tough, but I'm proud of myself for not backing out."
"I'll make my grappling and wrestling better and become more locked in towards being the best."
Montilla assures his fans that they haven't seen the last of him in ONE Championship.
"I'll be back stronger and make sure to put my name out there and leave a mark on the global stage of mixed martial arts," he declared.