MMA: Jhanlo Sangiao ready to lead the way for Team Lakay's 'new breed'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2021 03:00 PM

ONE Championship

MANILA, Philippines -- Jhanlo Mark Sangiao could only smile, knowing how far he has come.

"Nung nag-start pa lang ako, ako 'yung laging nagta-tap, ako 'yung binabaliktad lang," he recalls.

Such a beating can be expected, especially as a rookie in a fabled gym such as Team Lakay in Benguet, which is home to numerous Filipino world champions in mixed martial arts.

But the early setbacks only served to toughen Sangiao. Displaying the grit that Team Lakay -- and his father, legendary coach Mark Sangiao -- had instilled in him, the young Jhanlo always came back stronger no matter how many times he tapped.

"Eventually, I just built myself up and was able to hold my ground. Ang swerte ko na may teammates ako na world champions. Sila din ang motivation ko at sila ang nagpu-push sa akin kasi sila ang partner ko pag nagte-training," he said. 

"Sumasama ako 'pag may event sa Manila and every time na nanalo sila, nandoon 'yung fire na gusto ko rin sumali, na gusto ko rin lumaban sa cage. Nandoon 'yung passion."

The younger Sangiao no longer has to dream of those possibilities as the 18-year-old has a chance to make it a reality after signing with ONE Championship last week.

"When I was given the contract, I couldn't believe it. The dream I've had since I was young was already here," he said. "I had mixed emotions of nervousness and excitement that I can't explain it."

The ONE Championship deal was a dream come true for Sangiao, who has always been drawn to the world of MMA with his dad Mark, a decorated champion in his own right.

As he was exposed to the sport at a young age, it was no surprise that Sangiao also chose to step inside the cage.

"Ever since I was a kid, I was surrounded by athletes, papa's students, and his teammates. When he was teaching, he would bring me with him. And I think that's where I got the passion for the sport, that I was used to seeing them fight and that I also wanted to fight for myself. I wanted to experience that feeling of having my hands raised and winning a match," he said.

But he also understands that wading through these new territories in ONE Championship is also a double-edged sword, that it comes with the pressure of living up to the glorious reputation Team Lakay has had in the promotion.

Jhanlo is confident that his father has prepared him for the upcoming challenge, however.

"Papa is very strict with me, which isn't bad 'cause I know it's for my own good too. But he always told me that in MMA, I have to always train, be passionate, and enjoy what I'm doing," he said.

"This is already the big stage. This is unlike the amateurs. Yes, there are nerves, but that shouldn't be a reason why I will cower against my opponents," he added. "There's also pressure because I just signed with ONE Championship and many people are already looking forward to seeing me fight."

"They're asking on social media when my fight is and how strong I am given with my surname. But I just continue to train hard to be able to show what my talents are."

Team Lakay's Jhanlo Sangiao

Even though he has yet to make his debut, Sangiao is already setting lofty goals in this foray with ONE Championship as he truly wants to reach for the stars.

"Isa lang naman ang goal ko: ang maging world champion at maging successful din tulad ng mga kuya kong world champions," he declared.

"You have to be passionate to reach that but you also have to train hard and have the right character. I want to be known as a champion, but more than anything, I dream to be one of the legends, too, like Demetrious [Johnson]," said the young Sangiao.

Sangiao believes that his arrival also signals a changing of the guard for Team Lakay as he seeks to give a new dimension to the famed stable.

"When you see Team Lakay fighters, people always assume that we're all strikers," he said. "Now, expect that this is the new breed. I've trained to build new weapons and new skills, not just on the stand-up but also on the ground game," he said.