Combat sports are expected to deliver the golds in the Philippines’ bid for overall championship in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
For one, Filipinos are very much acknowledged for their innate talents in combat sports especially in striking like boxing and kickboxing.
Foreign-born disciplines like judo from Japan, taekwondo from Korea and muay thai from Thailand have unfurled numerous Filipino heroes not only in the region, but in the global stage as well.
Then there’s the new forms of fight sports like jiu-jitsu, a grappling sport from Brazil and sambo, a mixed martial art from Russia.
The popularity of MMA events in Asia, like the ONE Championship, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the United States, gave a horde of opportunities for local MMA talents.
Fresh campaigners hone their skills in local MMA tournaments, led by the Ultimate Reality Combat Championship. Acknowledged as the oldest MMA organization in Asia, URCC was the breeding ground of the most successful MMA team in Asia―Team Lakay.
In the advent of modern martial arts’ warfare, Filipino warriors came ahead of the competition. Except for Thailand, which also has a rich martial arts tradition, countries in Southeast Asian are still lagging behind although they are catching up fast.
In the coming SEA Games, which will be hosted by the Philippines on Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, sports associations from combat sports are looking at the marquee professional MMA fighters.
Pro MMA fighters in demand
A number of federations, including the local Sambo federation, are reportedly talking with UFC veteran and ONE Championship heavyweight titlist Brandon Vera, to represent the Philippines in the biennial meet.
To me, the only fighter from Southeast Asia who can measure up with Brandon is ONE championship middleweight and light heavyweight king Aung La N Sang from Myanmar.
Another MMA fighter, Fil-American Mark Striegl, has also given his commitment to see action for the Philippines in the SEA Games’ sambo competition.
I was with Striegl in a recent fitness retreat in Balesin Island and he confirmed to this Locker Room beater that he is trying to get his Filipino passport with the Department of Foreign Affairs to be eligible for the SEA Games.
He’s very excited to represent the Philippines and make his Filipino roots proud. His mother Sonia, a retired International School teacher in Japan, hails from Mindoro. His mother and American father, Frank, decided to live with him in Baguio since their retirement last October.
“That’s what I’m working on right now. So excited to represent my country,” said the Baguio-based Striegl, who is set to defend his URCC featherweight title against a Japanese contender in April 27 at The Cove in Okada, Macapagal Blvd.
ONE Championship campaigner Robin Catalan is again trying his luck in kickboxing, which is also part of the SEA Games calendar.
Robin had represented the Philippines in the 2017 Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games in Kyrgyzstan and is looking to again don the country’s tri-colors.
An official from the Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas said they will also invite Mark Sanguiao, owner of vaunted Team Lakay, to send a team to the national qualifying tournament for kickboxing sometime in July.
The Philippines is teeming with deep martial arts talents that are available anytime. It’s no exaggeration to say that combat sports will carry the Philippines to the top in the coming SEA Games.