Team Lakay’s head honcho talks about title shots, fan support, managing training camps, and what the future holds for one of Asia’s best martial arts teams.
Coach Mark Sangiao has always been very gracious and amiable the few times this writer has managed to speak with him. If one was not knowledgeable in the local MMA scene, it would feel like you were speaking with your best friend’s older brother or an older cousin – it’s just how he relates to people that makes a conversation feel down-to-earth.
But for the fans who know him for his exploits in the ring and out, he will always be “The Machine”: an apt description considering he runs one of the best martial arts teams on this side of the globe like a well-oiled, finely tuned mechanism.
This January is particularly a busy time for the team. Crisanto Pitpitunge fights Jenel Lausa for the vacant PXC flyweight title on January 16, 2016 at the Solaire Resort and Casino, and on January 23 Kevin Belingon challenges Bibiano Fernandes for the ONE bantamweight title at the Changsha Stadium in Changsha, China.
With the immediate match in mind, the chance for Pitpitunge to win titles in different weight classes is of course on Coach Mark’s mind. “The record is there for the taking and he is really focused on winning this fight for that achievement, which is why the fans will see the best version of Crisanto on Saturday.”
He also sounded off on Crisanto Pitpitunge’s opponent, Jenel Lausa. “Jenel is a good striker with boxing and Muay Thai as his main weapons. I think that it will be a war between the two of them but we are also very confident in our preparations for this fight. It will be a good main event for the fans to enjoy.”
Thanking the fans for their support, Coach Mark had cautious optimism despite Crisanto being the overwhelming favorite for this fight. “It’s good that a lot of the fans feel that way but we cannot be overconfident; in an MMA cage anything can happen and we need to be ready for all possible outcomes.”
Turning to Kevin Belingon’s ONE bantamweight title fight on January 23rd against Bibiano Fernandes, Coach Mark was also feeling confident despite the odds.
“Kevin’s preparation is going as planned and this will be a good test for him. Everybody knows that Bibiano is a ninja on the ground and has been the champion for some time now, but Kevin is ready for this fight and do not be surprised if he ends up winning. Bibiano has world-class jiu-jitsu and is a very good wrestler; his striking has improved a lot but Kevin is ready for this fight. It’s a great time for the team as we have back-to-back title shots in the PXC and ONE FC so everyone is excited to help Cris and Kevin out with their preparations.”
When asked if the back-to-back title opportunities presented challenges in terms of managing the fighters’ training, Coach Mark says that it’s just like any other day in the office for the team.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time so it’s nothing new to us. We are in a great place right now and all that’s left is the fight for Cris and Kevin. It’s not that difficult to manage as we have always been prepared for instances like this. I am glad that the team is growing and getting stronger because of fights like these. Hopefully we can get both belts to start the new year right.”
Speaking of the team’s growth, Coach Mark was very upbeat regarding the future or what he calls the “second generation” of fighters coming through the ranks.
“We have the second generation coming soon. We got them started in the pro-am circuit and the results have been very good. Five to six of them are progressing well with undefeated records like 5-0 and 6-0, so they are at a very good place right now. The coaching staff is sharpening their skills for their eventual journey into the international MMA circuit, but we will make sure that this group will be well-rounded and ready for anything when that time comes.”
Finally, Coach Mark has this message for all the MMA fans: “To all the fans, Happy New Year and thank you very much for the unwavering support for MMA. It means a lot to us that you are always there. Keep supporting Filipino athletes and we will see you on January 16 and 23.”
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