Jhanlo Mark Sangiao seemed destined to follow his father's footsteps and test his mettle inside the cage.
And for his father Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao, no words could capture his pride on seeing his 18-year-old son sign with ONE Championship this early in his career.
"We've been preparing Jhanlo for this moment for many years and now, the wait is over. We are seeing Jhanlo join the roster of ONE Championship's athletes," he said.
It truly is a realization of a dream for the younger Sangiao, who grew up watching his father tear it up with some of the toughest fighters in the country.
As dangerous as the sport of MMA is, there's really nothing that could compare to having one's arm raised at the end of the match. Understanding that indescribable high is one of the reasons why coach Mark never hindered Jhanlo from treading the same path.
"I never forced him to do MMA and I never told him not to. I left the decision up to him, to do what he wants and to navigate what he is really passionate about. And he found MMA, which made me more than proud," said the elder Sangiao.
Everyone knows the quality of being a Team Lakay fighter, with the Baguio-based stable cementing itself as one of the, if not the best MMA gym in the country.
At one point, it even had four of the five Filipino world champions under the ONE umbrella, bannered by former ONE lightweight champion Eduard "Landslide" Folayang and reigning ONE strawweight champion Joshua "The Passion" Pacio.
Having that standard also serves as fuel for the next generation of fighters -- from Sangiao to the likes of Danny "The King" Kingad, Lito "Thunder Kid" Adiwang, and Stephen "The Sniper" Loman -- to one day recapture that same glory and bring Team Lakay back to the pinnacle of ONE Championship.
"They all have that passion and absolutely, this young generation have that raw appetite to get to as far as where their Mamanongs have come to," said coach Mark. "These Mamanongs' achievements are motivation-feeder to our younger generation of fighters and I always tell them to stay driven, to train to improve, to always carry the right attitude and good character."
Of course, one can't blame coach Mark for being a little bit more detailed when he's at the corner of Jhanlo. After all, he couldn't help his fatherly instincts from inevitably kicking in whenever he sees his son fight.
"When our fighters fight, I see them as professional athletes and I am their coach. That is our relationship and this applies to everyone," he said. "But the only thing with Jhanlo is I feel more edgy. I guess that's the father feeling kicking in, but that's it."
That's not to say that coach Mark has no trust on his son's abilities as he believes that the years of preparation has readied Jhanlo for this leap of faith. And that includes dealing with the immense pressure of carrying their proud surname.
"I have no worries. I believe we got him armed physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for this moment. We did the groundwork and let him not forget to always stay focused and to always carry humility whenever he enters that ONE Circle," he said.
"Right now, he is the youngest among the Team Lakay athletes in ONE Championship and, of course, they know him as my son. I think this kind of adds more pressure to him, but I know that he is handling this very well. He's ready to go out there and perform."