Math teacher Angelie Sabanal motivated to claim second straight win in ONE Championship

ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 13, 2018 10:17 AM
Math teacher Sabanal motivated to claim second win in ONE
“I want to win again because I want to give back to my gym and the people who love and support me. I am competing for my country. Everything I do is for all of them and as long as I can do this, I will keep doing this,” - Angelie Sabanal (Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)

“Who is Angelie Sabanal?”

That was the question on most people's lips at ONE: IRON WILL this past March, when the debuting atomweight took on hometown favorite Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige in Bangkok, Thailand.

Ishige was heavily favored to win the bout against the relatively-unknown Filipina, who entered straight into a high-profile match on a stacked card. However, Sabanal soon educated the crowds, showing them who she is, and what's she capable of.

"D'Explorer" pulled off a major upset in her first ONE Championship outing, greatly relying on her savvy striking background to rout the rising Thai star via unanimous decision.

The National Muay Thai Silver Medalist showcased her accurate striking early on, peppering Ishige with stinging kicks and stiff punches.

Although Ishige boldly traded strikes with the Filipina kickboxer from bell to bell, Sabanal pulled away in the final round, landing the more telling blows.

In the end, all three judges at cageside rewarded her efforts with a clear-cut decision, and the thousands in attendance at the Impact Arena on that night were instantly introduced to the name of Angelie Sabanal.

“I did not know what to do. Do I celebrate or do I cry?,” she recalled. “I was really surprised because I did not expect the outcome.”

“I couldn’t explain the feeling at the exact moment my name was announced as the winner.”

Sabanal garnered instant attention with the high-profile win, but the softly-spoken 29-year old, who teaches mathematics at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, is still taking time to adjust.

Her breakout performance eight months ago quickly caught the attention of her peers, because the way in which she dominated Ishige was more akin to a seasoned veteran than a first-timer.

However, unknown to many, Sabanal was a late bloomer in martial arts. She only started training in Muay Thai a few years after getting her college diploma.

“I never thought that I would be a martial artist because I didn’t have the interest to try it back then. I was a volleyball player in grade school. Maybe it’s my competitive spirit that brought me into this position right now.”

“I enrolled in Muay Thai classes purely for fitness and self-defense,” she continued. “It took me five years to finally try to compete in Muay Thai because it never crossed my mind to compete, nor become a fighter.”

At the age of 22, Sabanal started to learn the ropes of Muay Thai at Mindanao Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts, a home to the best and brightest talents in the Philippines' southernmost major island of Mindanao.

It took her five years to muster up enough courage to climb into the ring, right after she finished her master’s degree.

“I was busy finishing my dissertation paper for my master’s degree. My priority at that time was to graduate, if not with honors. Although I was really progressing in Muay Thai, my focus was still fixed on getting a diploma,” Sabanal stated.

“After I earned my master’s degree, my coaches were the first ones who congratulated me, but after that, they asked me if I wanted to join the team. It was in 2017 when I accepted the offer. Well, the rest is history.”

It did not take long for Sabanal to capture gold medals on a provincial level, leading her to the 2017 Philippine National Muay Thai Championship, where she attained a second-place finish in the 57-kilogram category.

“I got silver, despite the fact that I am naturally a 49-kilogram competitor,” Sabanal recalled.

“I was supposed to fight in the 50-kilogram category, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any opponent. I decided to fight in a higher weight class. Fortunately, I finished the tourney with a silver medal in hand.”

Sabanal’s success in Muay Thai gained the interest of ONE Championship, giving her a chance to compete in the world's largest martial arts organization.

“D'Explorer” did not disappoint as she made the most of her big opportunity, convincingly defeating Ishige over the course of three rounds.

“I could not believe it because people were telling me that I should compete in the local scene first before I get my chance in ONE Championship,” she explained.

“Aside from that, my opponent was clearly more experienced than me. Getting the victory over Rika is like winning a world championship.”

Sabanal returns to action at ONE: WARRIOR'S DREAM on Saturday, 17 November in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she is slated to face SEA Games Wushu Bronze Medalist Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol.

With her morale at an all-time high, Sabanal is confident that she will have her hand raised in triumph at the expense of a local favorite once again, despite the fact that Lumban Gaol has won four of her previous five contests in 2018.

“I want to win again because I want to give back to my gym and the people who love and support me. I am competing for my country. Everything I do is for all of them and as long as I can do this, I will keep doing this,” she expressed.

Sabanal may be stepping on Indonesian soil with little fanfare, similar to her match with Ishige earlier this year, but the Filipina warrior believes that she will educate the crowds with another upset victory.

“I don’t mind if they have no idea who I am before the fight. What matters most is that the fans in Jakarta will remember me after the match. Surely, I will do my best in my upcoming bout this Saturday.”

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