Rene ‘D’ Challenger’ Catalan may have lost his recent ONE Championship bout against a fellow Filipino, but he is still confident that he can contribute to the five gold medals that the Philippines is projected to deliver in the sambo competitions of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
Catalan values the experience he gained when he fought it out—and lost—to reigning Filipino champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio in the world title main event at ONE: Masters of Fate last November 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“I learned a good experience. I know that we (Philippine team) are strong. I will use it (experience) for my team,” said Catalan, who remained upbeat that he can deliver.
The 40-year-old Catalan saw his six-fight winning streak snapped when he was submitted by Pacio, in the second round.
Catalan, a former Asian Games and SEA Games gold medalist in wushu, will return to the games this time in Sambo, a martial arts and combat sports that traces its roots in Russia.
Eleven gold medals are at stake in this combat sport, to be held at the Angeles University Foundation in Angeles, Pampanga, starting on Dec. 5.
Catalan’s credentials are top rate -- winner of the Wushu World Championship and Wushu World Cup twice, while bagging gold medals at the Asian Championships, Asian Games, and Southeast Asian games.
“Since 2003 ko pa dinadala ang bandila ng Pilipinas,” added Catalan, who won a gold medal in the Sansou competitions of the 2005 SEA Games which the Philippines hosted.
His career as a wushu artist was cut short when he was asked to retire by officials to give way to younger fighters.
But Catalan proved that he still has plenty left in his arsenal when he joined the ONE Championship, where he strung up six straight wins, even against younger foes. Along the way, he captured the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Sambo Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Nakita nila ‘yung dedication ko kaya siguro ako nakabalik sa national team, this time in another sport,” said Catalan, who plans to use his SEA Games’ campaign as his swan song.
After the games, he plans coach the national team full-time.
Catalan is bringing in another fighter whom he is training and coaching, Patrick Manicad, a 6-foot warrior entered in the lightweight class. Other members of the team are featherweight Mark Striegl, Nino Mondejar in the 90 kgs class and Chino Sy in the 80-kgs action.
Sambo fighters in the women’s side are Helen Aclopen, Marian Mariano, Jed Andrei Kim, Renzo Casinas, and Patrick dos Santos.
Mixed Martial Arts superstar Brandon Vera is the team manager.