MANILA, Philippines -- Mark Sangiao, the patriarch of Team Lakay, is embracing a slightly different role in ONE Warrior Series Philippines.
Having elevated his stable to the top of the Philippine mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, Sangiao is now seeking a new star in the series, where he will guide 16 MMA artists who hope to realize their dream of joining ONE Championship.
The fighter-turned-coach said that OWS will be a huge help for these aspiring fighters in their quest to join Team Lakay and compete inside the Circle.
"Extremely helpful. OWS opens the door of opportunity for our promising athletes and champions, it opens the door to an illustrious career and life-changing opportunities," Sangiao said.
"Apart from that, OWS also shows the harsh reality of being an MMA athlete -- that it's not easy, it's not just a test of physical strength and endurance but a supreme test of character, spirit, and of how far you can go and do to fight for your dream."
Sangiao is one of the brightest MMA minds in the world, with five of his fighters winning world titles in ONE Championship.
Honorio Banario was the first from Team Lakay to win gold in ONE Championship when he became the first ONE Featherweight World Champion. Then in 2016, Eduard Folayang started his first reign as the ONE Lightweight World Champion.
In 2018, Sangiao and Team Lakay experienced an unprecedented gold rush, winning four world titles in ONE Championship. Folayang began his second reign with the lightweight gold, Joshua Pacio became the ONE Strawweight World Champion, Geje Eustaquio took the ONE Flyweight World Title, and Kevin Belingon captured the ONE Bantamweight World Championship.
Sangiao said he saw how MMA was just an afterthought in the past decades, with boxing hogging all of the combat sports headlines. While it took a bit of time, MMA is now on the same pedestal as boxing, and the Team Lakay head coach feels it will just grow even bigger in the coming years.
"Two decades ago when I was actively fighting, MMA was a foreign word in the Philippines, no one was talking about it, unlike boxing. There was no support, no headlines on the papers," he shared.
"Now, MMA is as noisy as boxing, or even more? We can see many MMA events, promotions, teams, MMA athletes all around the country. I feel very happy and fulfilled that the sport flourished to something like this, and I guarantee it will be more popular in the future. I'm gratified that I and Team Lakay were there when it started from nothing, and I and Team Lakay are still here thriving alongside the sport."