Members of Filipino MMA stable Team Lakay disagreed with the controversial House bill banning minors from participating in competitive full-contact sports.
House Bill 1526 filed by AKO Bicol Representatives Elizaldy Co and Aldredo Garbin Jr. has already been met with opposition particularly from martial arts practitioners.
In a statement posted on Team Lakay's Facebook page, head coach Mark Sangiao said combat sports is not just about fighting.
"We always say, 'Start them young,' and 'Champions are made.' Our children need to develop character and the best time to instill this to them is at their formidable years," said Sangiao.
"Let's not miss this opportunity to help our kids to be responsible individuals in the future by not restricting them to learn and be involved in combat sports at a young age."
Joshua Pacio, who holds the ONE strawweight crown, said he probably would not have become a champion if he was not introduced to martial arts at a young age.
"I started martial arts at an early age, at 11 years old and it changed my life," Pacio said.
"This bill kills that chance for us to change and grow starting from our younger years.
"What we should do instead is to encourage our children to learn martial arts as early as they can. It will surely develop good attitude, most especially self-discipline that will eventually change this country."
BRAVE CF bantamweight champion Stephen Loman, meanwhile, expressed a similar sentiment as his fellow Team Lakay fighters.
"I don't agree with the proposed bill and I have many solid reasons," Loman said.
Martial arts help practitioners to develop themselves not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Staying active is important, Loman stressed.
"I think they will only experience playing martial arts and combat sports online like from their cellphone, computer and PlayStation. This way is not physically and mentally healthy. We need to stay active and this should begin at our tender ages," he said.
Team Lakay has produced a number of world champion MMA fighters including Pacio, Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Geje Eustaquio.
Garbin said the bill "will not prevent the training and practice of the different full contact sports by minors, subject to certain guidelines, for recreational and non-competitive sport or for training."
"Ang ayaw natin ay ang full-blown competition where a participant is expected to exert maximum force on a minor without any protection whatsoever," he added.