Rene Catalan is Proving All the Doubters Wrong at 40

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Rene Catalan records sixth straight win in ONE Championship over former champ Yoshitaka Naito

Editor’s Note: I wanted to do justice in covering this milestone for Rene Catalan, so I asked Catalan Fighting System long-time student and fellow MMA writer Dreau Lanot to share Catalan’s journey from his perspective.

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By the age of 40, most combat sport athletes have already slid past their prime and are considered done. In MMA, where the demands to the body and psyche are far more steep, the peak performance window of a fighter often closes earlier. However, for Rene Catalan, he has fought against and triumphed over too many odds to simply yield to Father Time.

Catalan was already 34 and has been a few years removed from his last combat exposure when he signed with ONE in 2013. His MMA career started in the shadows: a submission loss on his debut, followed by a no-contest from absorbing illegal blows, and then a knockout.

It took over three years and a couple of camp relocations before he could find his winning formula; the Filipino Wushu-Sanda record holder only earned his first MMA win in September 2016 against Chinese opponent Zhang You Liang.

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Five straight wins brought him to the evening of March 8, 2019 where he was set to face former champ Yoshitaka Naito, a man who took home the ONE Championship strawweight world title twice by beating the two men who finished Coach Rene: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Alex Silva.

At 35 years old, Naito is at the prime of his career. Testaments to this is the fact that he has never been finished – surviving grueling losses against Silva and Joshua Pacio – and is able to consistently impose the effectiveness of his elite-level grappling regardless who his opponent is.

Needless to say, age and MMA math were stacked against the Iloilo native Catalan.

Fight night came. No one from Team Catalan flashed a smile in the send-off before Coach Rene climbed the cage. Inside, he sat on the canvass with a loaded focus in his eyes. Across the cage is his Japanese foe, looking fit and nimble as ever.

When the clash ensued, Naito used his best weapon and strategy. He wrestled Catalan from the first opening he saw to shoot for a single-leg takedown. Catalan sprawled, sneaking a few heavy blows in before the Japanese successfully dragged the fight to the ground. Unstoppable Force meets Immovable Object as Naito relentlessly pursued ground control while Catalan resisted with strength and technique. After three minutes of scrambling, Catalan trapped Naito with punches, bloodied him with a knee, and ended things with hammer fists.

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Referee Kemp Cheng stopped the bout with 28 seconds left in the first round to award Catalan the win and advance his record to 6 wins, 2 losses, 1 no contest. Catalan showed that age and MMA math do not define him.

Joshua Pacio and Yosuke Saruta are set to run it back next month for the strawweight title. Either fighter would be an interesting match for Catalan. Saruta is out to prove that he deserves the title opportunity ‘gifted’ him. The Lakay Pacio represents a team that, like CFS, has its base in Wushu. Whoever stares Catalan across the cage next, Coach Rene’s journey inside the ONE Championship cage has been nothing short of phenomenal.

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Andrew Lanot is an MMA fanatic who trains out of Catalan Fighting System Philippines. He is a fitness coach for a talent agency, Tier One Entertainment, which means he gets to train hot chicks.



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