February 3, 2023

It has certainly been a rough go as of late for Team Lakay and no one knows that better than Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao.

After returning from Singapore, going one-four overall with only former ONE flyweight world Champion Geje Eustaquio winning his match, Sangiao said the mood in the camp is serious but uplifting. The martial artists at Team Lakay were disappointed with their performances but remain motivated to correct their paths.

One athlete who has been waiting on the sidelines, watching intently as her teammates ply the ONE circle, is female atomweight contender Gina Iniong. She was previously ranked fifth in atomweight in ONE, but due to her inactivity, she was recently removed from the rankings with Thailand’s Stamp Fairtex taking her place.

Sangiao wants to tell the Filipino martial arts fans that Iniong is keen on returning to action.

“When she’s all fit to start her training, then she’s back,” Sangiao said, confirming Iniong’s willingness to continue her career.

Iniong has been out of action for months after announcing that she and husband Richard Araos were pregnant with their first child. Just this week, Iniong gave birth to a baby girl, Gianna Rose.

Iniong laid all the debate to rest on whether or not she wanted to return to competition in a recent interview.

Sangiao believes Iniong is targeting a slot in the eight-wo-man ONE atomweight Grand Prix.

“She’s eager to be in the atomweight Grand Prix, but she needs to be patient and approach it at the right time. I have no doubt she will be better than ever. Gina is motivated, focused, and determined,” said Sangiao.

Although no details have yet been confirmed, athletes projected to participate in the Grand Prix include Stamp Fairtex, Mei Yamaguchi, Meng Bo, and Itsuki Hirata, as well as ranked one atomweight Filipino Denice Zamboanga.

Along with many Filipino fans, Sangiao has witnessed Zamboanga’s rise to becoming the division’s top contender, but feels the 23-year-old still needs a few more wins under her belt to really round out into a star.

The Team Lakay head coach also said it wouldn’t be a problem if Iniong faced Zamboanga somewhere down the line. – Harley F. Palangchao