July 24, 2024

Prior to the announcement of the exit of four former world champions of the fabled Team Lakay, there was a talk with the group and individually, according to head coach Mark Sangiao.

Team Lakay fighters Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Honorio Banario, and Joshua Pacio, all former ONE Championship world champions, have confirmed they have parted ways with Team Lakay through their Facebook accounts, which left fans speculating on various issues like in-fighting within the team or the fighters’ being recruited to other gyms. 

TEAM LAKAY DYNASTY GONE — The departure of former ONE Championship world champions Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Honorio Banario, and Joshua Pacio from Team Lakay has left a vacuum in the top mixed martial arts gym in Southeast Asia. Team Lakay founder and chairman Mark Sangiao has assured that concerned parties maintain civility and wished them good luck in their future endeavors. — ONE file photo

In an interview with Bombo Radyo Baguio, Sangiao said he was saddened with the fighters’ decision but he gave his blessings to them so that they would venture out well.

“I am saddened with their decision but for me as their manong, I am happy with what they have achieved. With their decision, there’s nothing I could do but to accept it because I know they really thought hard about it,” Sangiao said.

Sangiao said even siblings have misunderstandings, how much more to them as a team. He said Team Lakay stayed this long because they would always talk things out.

It was an emotional moment for the remaining members of Team Lakay, especially the younger generations of the departure of their manongs, but Sangiao reminded them to focus on their goals as there would always come a time when people would part ways. 

Folayang echoed this in a separate interview in the same radio station, saying there is no easy way to say goodbye especially with Sangiao, who is like a brother to him.

“I said thank you for all those years we have been together.”

I explained to him that I need to try a different path so I could discover more and unleash my remaining potential,” Folayang said. 

The former two-time ONE lightweight world champion was the first of the four to announce his exit but said there is no grudge between him and Sangiao. His decision was purely to improve his remaining active years in fighting after being with Team Lakay for 16 years.

Folayang is considered as the poster boy of Philippine mixed martial arts being the main fighter in  the maiden fight of ONE Championship in 2011.   

Folayang said it took him a lot of prayers and consultation with his family and inner circle before arriving at his decision. 

“Siyempre nadagsen ta nakanayon ti nagan ko ti Team Lakay. And yet maminsan ada nga talaga kailangan decisions that need to be made, especially if you still want the vision that you saw years back to be intact until now. So I think I don’t want to be stuck. I don’t want to waste the remaining active years of my career,” he said.

The 39-year-old Folayang said he will still fight under ONE Championship, but will carry and build his own brand. He said he is open to training in other gyms and trainers as he starts getting invites from other MMA fighters such as Martin Nguyen and Cris Cyborg Justino.

The 27-year-old Pacio, meanwhile, thanked Sangiao and Team Lakay for honing him through the years which helped him become a world champion. But he said he needs to step out of his comfort zone to level up his skills.

“In my quest to better myself and reclaim the belt that was once mine, I have decided that moving out of the fabled stable that gave Filipino fight fans much to cheer for inside the circle is the path that I have to take,” Pacio said in his Facebook post.

Only former ONE flyweight world champion Geje Eustaquio remains in Team Lakay where he held four belts simultaneously in 2018.

Fans wished the four fighters well and blessed them with their decision. – Ofelia C. Empian