Team Lakay has been with ONE Championship since the promotion’s inception in 2011, but head coach Mark Sangiao acknowledged things have changed over that time.
Sangiao said his squad has had to work double time to keep everyone on their toes to respond to increasingly challenging competition in ONE.
Take No. 2 flyweight Danny Kingad, for example. He takes on Kairat Akhmetov in ONE: Big Bang on December 4.
The 24-year-old has faced the biggest names of the division, from ONE flyweight champion Adriano Moraes and No. Demetrious Johnson to young Japanese fighters such as No. 4 Yuya Wakamatsu and Tatsumitsu Wada, or even veterans such as No. 5 Reece McLaren and Senzo Ikeda.
MMA: Team Lakay's Danny Kingad returns at ONE: Big Bang
That’s the type of competition the team is facing nowadays, and Sangiao constantly reminds his wards they have to keep improving.
“The goal is to always find a better system. We have to level up, so we won’t be left behind by other countries or athletes from those countries,” Sangiao said.
One of his ways to respond is to find new talent.
The team has always been adamant on performing to inspire others, and Sangiao said there are a lot of upcoming fighters on the team waiting to be refined and turned into world championship material.
But given the influx of athletes they have, the gym is adjusting to make sure they can grow into their potential.
“The changes are night and day, and that’s why we have to be better. We added trainers now, aside from the new schedule of training,” Sangiao said.
“There are a lot of people who are inspired to follow in our footsteps. I’m happy to see young people being motivated to do what we do, so we classify these athletes, from our elite athletes on the team, to class A, B, and C, so we don’t disrupt their training.”
Whether this classification system will work for the team, only time will tell. But if it produces athletes like Kingad, the future martial arts world could be in for some trouble.