After exit of ‘Lions,’ Lakay chief eyes rise of dragons | Inquirer Sports

After exit of ‘Lions,’ Lakay chief eyes rise of dragons

05:15 AM January 07, 2024

Geje Eustaquio

FILE – Geje Eustaquio is one of Team Lakay’s remaining stars. —TRISTAN TAMAYO

The year has been rocky for Team Lakay to say the least.

After the departure of a bevy of standouts, including four former ONE Championship titleholders, its ringmaster Mark Sangiao had to rebuild from scratch.

“That’s life,” the softspoken coach told the Inquirer in a lengthy chat on the last day of 2023. “That’s part of being in a team and being surrounded with athletes. You’ll have to deal with situations like that.”


Back in March, the local and Asian mixed martial arts scene was shaken by news of Eduard Folayang—the face of Philippine MMA—parting ways with the camp that he has represented for 16 years.

It didn’t take too long for Joshua Pacio, Honorio Banario, and Kevin Belingon to follow the veteran’s move, eventually forming Lions Nation MMA. Prospect Lito Adiwang bolted by midyear to set up camp overseas, while Danny Kingad eventually joined his former teammates.

The departures left Team Lakay and Sangiao with just two champions: Geje Eustaquio and Stephen Loman. Everyone else is still a diamond in the rough, including his son Jhanlo.

But that hardly puts a dent in the seasoned mentor’s optimism.


“Our purpose remains the same: To build champions and exceptional athletes who could represent the country,” said Sangiao, who has also served several of the country’s national martial arts programs.

“You know, I’ve learned a lot from [the episode], especially on the management side of things. The process stays the same, even when we lose: We look at the positive side of things and go into troubleshooting. At the end of the day, improvement is what we aspire to.”


Newcomers Carlos Alvarez and Carlo Bumina-ang are both on a tear in the promotion’s developmental circuit, both racking up three victories this year.

And that’s keeping Sangiao’s hopes up.

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“I’m still grateful, you know. There are lessons I’ve learned. Now I know how to deal with things like that arise in the future.” “I am hoping for a fruitful 2024. Oh, and by the way, next year’s the Year of the Dragon—the very creature in the middle of Team Lakay’s logo,” Sangiao said.

TAGS: Geje Eustaquio, MMA, One Championship

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