Being head coach of one of the most prolific fight teams in Asian MMA is a monumental task, but Mark Sangiao, the man behind the famed Team Lakay of Baguio City, takes it all in his stride. In many ways, Sangiao not only drives the team’s success in MMA, but also serves as a father-figure to the team’s many members.
On 21 April, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Sangiao’s most prized pupil, ONE Light-weight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Fola-yang, makes the first defense of his title against Malaysia’s Ev Ting in the night’s main event.
More than anyone else, Sangiao has played a direct part in Folayang’s amazing career. Last No-vember, Sangiao witnessed history from cageside as Folayang pulled off his incredible victory over Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki to capture the World Championship.
That moment, which Folayang says is the most significant of his career, is one that Sangiao shared with his ward inside the ONE Championship cage.
However, it wasn’t always such a rosy picture. There were times when the end was in sight, and a decision had to be made whether or not to push forward. Perseverance, it turns out, was deeply ingrained in the champion’s psyche.
The stoppage losses to Lowen Tynanes and Timofey Nastyukhin, as well as the close decision losses to Ole Laursen and Kamal Shalorus, have all played pivotal roles in building the champion the world sees today.
“There was a time that we almost gave up,” said Sangiao. “But of course, being athletes helps us to be tough, and not to sur-render. We realized we needed to work on our weaknesses, and see what was lacking. We had to work on them until it became normal.”
The setbacks, the heartbreaks, and the constant re-evaluation of Folayang’s career have all served its purpose, according to the renowned coach.
“I’m very, very happy and proud of Eduard (Folayang), because he made a lot of sacrifices, went through hardship, blood, and sweat,” Sangiao says, proudly. “I saw his career grow. I saw his ups and downs. I knew Eduard (Folayang) would get the belt, because I saw how he trains. He’s the toughest mentally on our team. He deserves that belt.”
There can never be success without failure, and by the time Folayang steps back inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY on 21 April in Manila, Sangiao knows whatever happens will only serve to strengthen Folayang further as a martial artist.
That said, Sangiao unsurprisingly predicts his protégé to prevail come Fight Night.
“This fight against Ev Ting is very important to [Folayang]. Whether on the ground or in striking, he’s well prepared. He’s very ready,” says Sangiao. “After the referee raises the hand of Eduard (Folayang), expect a very loud stadium.”