Team Lakay’s head coach Mark Sangiao has a busy weekend on his hands on Saturday, 23 June.
Sangiao will lead a trio from his Filipino gym into the cage at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in Macau, with all three warriors competing in bouts with championship implications.
Flyweight contender Danny “The King” Kingad could find himself in position for a title shot with a victory over Chinese wrestler Ma Hao Bin, while featherweight contender Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly may be on the verge of the same kind of opportunity if he can defeat former ONE Featherweight Champion Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa.
Then, in the main event, Sangiao will corner ONE Interim Flyweight Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio as he takes on his old adversary, and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion, Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes in a World Title unification bout.
Having overseen the preparations of all three athletes ahead of their respective matches, Sangiao says his trio is ready for action in Macau.
“Right now, we are at the peak of training, and our fighters are 100 percent ready,” he says.
“Even with the bad weather [in Baguio], we still push through with our regular outdoor training sessions. No matter what the circumstances are, nothing can stop us.
“This is how World Champions train. Our spirits are high, and we are excited to march towards victory.”
Eustaquio’s preparations are slightly different from those of his teammates, as he’s stepping in with an opponent the team has prepared for before. “Gravity” lost the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Title bout to the Brazilian earlier in his career.
This time, Sangiao says his man is ready to win, wherever the bout goes.
“Preparations for Adriano Moraes are excellent,” he says.
“I feel we have covered all the bases – from striking to grappling.
“We know our opponent is a world champion grappler, and we have to be careful, but we are prepared for anything.
“The fight can head in any direction, but Geje has much more control now than ever before. His striking will shine in this bout, as well as his defence.”
The key to Eustaquio’s success, says Sangiao, is his ability to absorb information during training sessions.
“He is a sponge of knowledge,” he explains.
“Everything there is to learn about martial arts – he absorbs it. When he makes mistakes, he learns. He is constantly learning in every situation.
“Geje is always hungry and determined, and he has been preparing and eagerly looking forward to this time since he was defeated by Moraes four years ago. Now, it is his time for victory.”
Kelly’s bout with Jadambaa represents an acid test of the Filipino’s championship credentials, and Sangiao said he’s preparing his man for a significant challenge.
“In Team Lakay, we have a basic principle – no matter the opponent, we consider every single fight as our toughest fight, and Narantungalag Jadambaa is no different,” he explains.
“We are preparing Edward for the toughest opponent of his career, no doubt. It will take a monstrous effort, but with determination and faith, we can achieve success.
“Jadambaa may be strong and sturdy, but Edward is fast and cunning, and can turn the lights out on any opponent in an instant.”
Kelly is something of a veteran in Team Lakay, but Sangiao says “The Ferocious” is just coming into his prime and his martial arts skill set is expanding with every training session.
“Edward is continuously growing into a more complete fighter,” he says.
“He has a better understanding of what he can and cannot do now, and we never cease in honing every aspect of his skill set.
“In training, we drill hard so we cover all the bases. Rest assured, we have worked on his striking and his grappling for this bout, and we are prepared for the best Jadambaa yet.”
And if his man gets the win they have planned for, Sangiao believes the time will be right for Kelly to compete for a World Title.
“Beating the former ONE Featherweight World Champion can only mean a ticket for Edward to get that much-awaited title shot,” he says.
“This match is momentous for us – he has no other option but to win. If we can get the victory, we march closer towards the World Title, and Edward is one of the most talented fighters in his division right now. We are in a great position.”
The third member of the team set for action in Macau is also within touching distance of a title shot. Kingad lost to Moraes in his challenge for the flyweight belt in November, but Sangiao said that loss has proved to be a turning point in the career of “The King”.
“Danny’s loss to Moraes made him a stronger, more confident fighter,” he explains.
“Moraes handed him the biggest lesson of his career. After their bout, I saw a renewed Danny Kingad – he is more focused than ever before and more diligent with his training.
“Each time you see him perform, he is more resolute and more mature, and much stronger mentally and emotionally.
“I believe in his talent, and I think he has the potential to be one of the best in the world. It is only a matter of time. He is on the right path.”
That progression was there for all to see against Sotir Kichukov, when Kingad showed new levels of maturity as he negotiated his way to a decision victory.
“Danny’s match against Sotir was the determining factor for whether Danny could conquer his own demons or not,” explains Sangiao.
“The victory did wonders for his self-confidence. He proved to himself that he could overcome a tough challenge, even when things did not go his way.
“I think it taught him a lot about how he can depend on himself to find solutions to even the most difficult problems. I am sure in his next match, Danny will be even more confident, and he will give a better performance.”
That next challenge comes in the form of Ma Hao Bin, a dynamic wrestler with an aggressive style. Sangiao thinks he matches up well with his man Kingad, and fans can expect an exciting match-up
“I think Ma and Danny’s skills are similar – both are aggressive and explosive strikers, and both can wrestle and grapple on the mat,” he says.
“This fight will go down to who can execute their game plan better. It is all about strategy from this point.
“While people in the crowd will see an exciting showdown, we will be looking at the tactical side of this match-up.
“There is so much more that goes on than people realise. We are working on a great game plan for Danny so he can achieve victory.”
With three men set for action in the cage, Team Lakay has the opportunity to score a hat-trick of headline-making wins to further enhance the Baguio City gym’s already impressive reputation.
However, Sangiao is playing down the individual significance of ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER as an event. For him, every event is crucial to his team’s success.
“It is the same as every event – very important. Each event can further make us or break us,” he says.
“We put everything on the line, every time. We give it our all, and we leave nothing in the ring. This is how we fight – with heart.
“Win or lose, we do our best, and we either leave that arena victorious, or we learn our lessons. Every fight is a step forward. Experience is the greatest teacher.
“We will be out in full force in Macau, and it is going to be an exciting night.”