Geje Eustaquio produced the performance of a lifetime to defeat Adrian Moraes and win the ONE Flyweight World Title. Now “Gravity’s” job has changed as he looks to maintain his position at the top.
Looking back at his career-defining win, the 29-year-old Filipino says he went into the contest fully aware of his opponent’s skills, including the Brazilian’s evolving striking game, which played a factor during the back-and-forth contest.
But as Eustaquio explains, a key factor in his win was his own significantly-improved takedown defence, which he used to great effect to help diminish Moraes’ most dangerous weapon – his submissions.
“I know he is also a developing athlete. He put in a lot in his training camp to be at his best, but I wanted to take his confidence away early,” he explains.
“Even in the first and second rounds, he was not 100 percent sold on taking me down any more. He was already confused. His confidence was not there any more, because I was also initiating takedowns. I think I surprised him a lot by going for the takedowns.
“Honestly, it was part of our game plan – to take him down and beat him at his own game, mentally. But of course, the real strategy was keeping the fight on the feet. He needed to stand up with me. When we did go to the ground, I made sure I was doing damage with ground and pound.”
While he was able to stuff a significant number of Moraes’ takedown attempts, there were multiple occasions during the five-round battle where he found himself on the bottom and having to defend against the BJJ ace.
The Filipino admits those moments were cause for concern during the contest, especially with their previous bout ending in a submission win for the Brazilian.
“Yes, of course,” he admits.
“Adriano is a high-level grappler, but some of his submissions were ineffective this time around. He was going for some kneebars, and I was not having it. I knew he was not capable of submitting me with that.
“My mindset was always, ‘If I got caught, I would never tap.’ If he got a choke on me, I would sleep with that choke. But I was always in the right position, so there was no chance of that happening.”
With Eustaquio taking the win, it means the head-to-head record between the pair now stands at 1-1. That immediately leads to the question of whether “Gravity” would entertain a rubber match with Moraes.
The Team Lakay standout says he would be more than happy to dance a third time with his Brazilian rival if it made sense.
“If the fans are not bored yet with me and Adriano fighting, then let’s go,” he says.
“If the fans want to see it, let’s go. But if I have better opportunities, I will take it.
“Of course, Adriano is a World Champion, and we are very evenly matched. He submitted me the first time, but this time, I proved that I became a better fighter. Give me more time, and I will be way better.
“Please do not underestimate our BJJ, or what we call “Baguio jiu-jitsu” – it is dangerous. With more time, we [at Team Lakay] will be submitting guys in competition.”
One interesting dynamic in the ONE flyweight division is that between Eustaquio and his Team Lakay stablemate Danny “The King” Kingad. The 22-year-old star is considered one of the top contenders in the division, but often in the sport, you hear of teammates who are unwilling to face each other in competition.
Eustaquio is willing to do whatever he is asked to do, but has high regard for his young teammate, and adds he would prefer not to face Kingad in active competition.
“Danny is very young in this sport. He will have his time, but I have to admit, we are in a business,” he says.
“If the boss says we fight, then let’s do it. Me and Danny, and everyone else on our team, we spar three times a week – and sparring at Team Lakay is totally 100 percent. It is like real fighting – we go all out. There is always a possibility of one of us facing each other.
“As much as possible, though, I would not like to compete with this kid. I believe he will have his time. He has all the time in the world, and he is developing very fast. You saw [the difference between] when he lost to Adriano and now – look at how he crumples his opponents inside the ring.
“He is such a fast learner, and he is growing so rapidly. I know he will have his time.”
As for what’s next for him, Eustaquio has big plans.
“2018 is my year. Everybody is welcome,” he says.
“I am also planning to go to bantamweight, strawweight, or even challenge Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for the ONE Super Series Muay Thai Flyweight World Championship. I think that is an intriguing match-up.
“There are a lot of open doors and possibilities for me, and I am willing to take the risk. But if ONE Championship wants me to defend this Flyweight World Title immediately, then let’s go. It is very much welcome.
“For now, my main goal is to go back to the gym and review the tape, learn, and improve. I want to add to my arsenal.