The path to the top is never easy. For some, just to make the run-up to title contention is a gargantuan task in and of itself, even more so in ONE Championship’s stacked featherweight division, which is teeming with talent.
Filipino featherweight standout Roel “Akiyama” Rosauro understands that, and is working his way up the ladder in hopes of entering the title conversation.
When Rosauro meets highly regarded debutant James Yang in the Circle, on the lead card at ONE: REVOLUTION set for Friday, September 24 in Singapore, he is hoping a resounding victory will set him on the right path.
“I expect it to be a bloody fight and may the best man win," said the Cebu-based Muay Thai specialist.
Unlike his peers, the 32-year-old has had a rough climb through the ranks, facing some of the division’s most dangerous opponents. Among the most notable names he’s challenged so far include Indonesian journeyman Sunoto, and hard-hitting Chinese bad boy, Li Kai Wen, both fights which he lost in his first two outings in ONE.
It wasn’t until his third appearance in the Circle that Rosauro was able to turn his career around.
Spurred on by his gold medal victory at the 2018 Philippine International Jiujitsu Open, and a silver medal finish in a Muay Thai event hosted by the Philippine National Games (PNG), a more confident Rosauro was finally able to strike a notch in the win column.
“Akiyama” bagged a unanimous decision over embattled veteran Yohan Mulia Legowo early last year, in a performance that introduced fans to what Rosauro was truly capable of.
Rosauro pummeled Legowo with menacing strikes, featuring killer body shots and a steady stream of low kicks to dominate the bout and earn his first victory under the ONE Championship banner.
He dedicated the victory to his late father, who never had the chance to watch him compete in the world’s largest martial arts organization. But just when it felt like momentum was finally on Rosauro’s side, the world was hit with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which threw a monkey wrench in every plan.
Border restrictions, movement, and logistics all became extremely hampered by the threat of the coronavirus looming. Even training proved to be a challenge for the Yaw-Yan Ardigma Cebu standout, preventing him from capitalizing on his momentum.
"My training has been on and off because of the pandemic. Some days, the gym would be open, but most of the time, it's closed. Sometimes, I'm forced to train at my home, which is also a difficult task on its own," he stated, with Cebu City still being one of the hotbeds of the virus in the archipelago.
Despite those difficulties, Rosauro prepared all he could for this return match, improving his striking which paid dividends for him in his last fight against Legowo, while also putting additional focus on his grappling to be able to keep up with Yang, who trains with the legendary Demetrious Johnson at AMC Pankration.
"I know he's a good fighter, so I have to really be at my best. But I'm not worried at all because I know all I need is to give it my best," Rosauro said.
Rosauro dreams of becoming one of the top contenders in his weight class which is currently ruled by reigning ONE Featherweight World Champion Thanh Le.
Other top fighters in the division include former two-division ONE World Champion Martin Nguyen, lightweight king Christian Lee, and submission grappling icon Garry Tonon, among others.
It’s certainly a steep climb indeed. But in the combat sports world, just one resounding victory makes a world of difference, especially if it’s an impressive one. If Rosauro can put together a winning performance against Yang that the fighting world will talk about, it could be the Filipino’s one-way ticket to the top.