February 7, 2023

When ONE Championship has announced its return to its flagship event schedule, the famed Team Lakay camp knew it wouldn’t be long until its fighters will be back inside the circle, doing what they do best.

Needless to say, the journey has certainly been a difficult one. When lockdowns due to the widespread outbreak of Covid-19 began in early March, gyms were closed down and athletes were forced to stay inside their homes, just like the rest of the world.

One man tasked with leading the Philippines’ most prolific martial arts outfit, Team Lakay chair Mark Sangiao, would take the circumstances as a challenge to overcome.

“It was challenging trying to find productive alternative training methods to keep our athletes well-conditioned. There’s a hard balance to strike, because it wasn’t only about facing a health crisis. We were facing an economic crisis as well. Our athletes had to find a way to survive, and so did our gym,” said Sangiao.

Team Lakay is a close-knit group, woven with world championship experience in its travelled veterans and youthful energy in its rising young stars.

Sangiao is known not only as a martial arts coach, but also as a brother and a father for many.

The relationship with his athletes extends far beyond the four walls of the gym, and it was hard for Sangiao to not be there in person to guide them through a tough stretch. Regardless, the team did their best to cope with the situation.

“It was hard spending time away from them and not being able to guide them personally. We never failed to constantly communicate online, and I always checked up on them during their home training. I also asked them to post their training regimens online for accountability,” said Sangiao.

“I would say the training has been solid, and the athletes are more eager than before. We’re all excited to head back to action after a long hiatus. It was fun to train at home early in the lockdowns, but as soon as regulations eased, we went back to the gym,” he added.

The Team Lakay camp has recorded one win and three losses since its fighters saw action during the pandemic.

Former two-time lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang suffered a unanimous decision loss against Antonio Caruso in the ONE: Inside the Matrix II in Singapore on Oct. 30.

Former two-time bantamweight world champion Kevin Belingon likewise suffered defeat via technical knockout in the hands of John Lineker while Lito Adiwang was defeated by Hiroba Minowa via split decision in the ONE: Inside the Matrix III on Nov. 13.

Former two-time world champion Geje Eustaquio saved the night for Team Lakay when he secured a unanimous decision victory against South Korean Song Min Jong. – Harley F. Palangchao