Former ONE Champion Honorio Banario proud to see how far Team Lakay has come
Santino Honasan on Oct 22, 2019 02:19 PM
"Nagsimula kami sa butas-butas na gloves at punching bag, ngayon madami na kaming mga juniors, tapos tignan mo, kumpleto pa sila, complete package sila, parang wow." - Honorio Banario (Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)
An interesting fact that often gets overlooked is that Honorio "The Rock" Banario was the first member of Team Lakay to capture ONE Championship gold.
Banario defeated compatriot Eric "The Natural" Kelly back in 2013 to become the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Champion. His success would only be a taste of what was to come for the Benguet-based MMA stable. Now, after producing title contenders and five more world champions in ONE Championship as well as in the UAE-based Brave CF, Team Lakay has established themselves as the Philippines' premier mixed martial arts stable.
A far cry from how things used to be, according to Banario, the team's first world champion in ONE Championship.
"Kung sa akin, sa sarili ko lang, iniisip ko nung nag-simula kami, parang maiiyak ka kasi parang dramatic yung pag-taas namin," Banario shared. "Nagsimula kami sa butas-butas na gloves at punching bag, ngayon madami na kaming mga juniors, tapos tignan mo, kumpleto pa sila, complete package sila, parang wow."
Banario is among those that people would consider as the first batch of stars from Team Lakay, along with Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Geje Eustaquio, and Edward Kelly. After Banario's world title conquest, Folayang, Belingon, and Eustaquio have all captured ONE gold, while Kelly had consistenly been a contender.
While all the "OG" members of Team Lakay are still very much active and competitive, the newer wave of standouts are also making names for themselves.
23-year old Joshua Pacio is the reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion, currently on his second run with the title, while his buddy 24-year old Danny Kingad was the runner-up in the recently-concluded ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, holding his own against American legend and former UFC World Champion Demetrious Johnson.
At ONE: Century in Tokyo last October 13th, 27-year old Lito Adiwang made an immediate splash in his ONE debut, winning via first-round TKO. Outside ONE, 27-year old Stephen Loman has reigned over Brave CF's bantamweight division, resembling a younger and equally-vicious Belingon.
"Yung mga juniors namin na sina Danny, sina Lito, ayos na yun eh, andun na sila sa level na pang-world class talaga," Banario continued. One of his wishes however, is to see more young blood in the heavier weight divisions. "Yung susunod sana sa kanila, hopefully madadagdagan pa ng mga kagaya namin na timbang."
Banario credits Team Lakay's growth to the man behind the team, head coach Mark Sangiao, as well as their culture of family within the team.
"Ang masasabi ko lang doon, is yung buong team, yung leadership ni Coach Mark, maganda, kaya nag-boom yung team namin, lagi kaming namo-motivate, tapos yung camaraderie namin, yung brotherhood namin, yung team play namin, yung hilahan, kung may problema hihilahin mo para umangat kayong lahat."
Team Lakay's meteoric rise however, Banario adds, isn't solely their doing. He gives credit to the promotions that have given them the platform to show off their skills and compete on a high level.
"Because of our hard work, lumaki yung Team Lakay, and because sa tulong din ng ONE, kasi kung wala yung ONE tsaka yung ibang promotion na nilalaruan namin noon, hindi tayo mabibigyan ng opportunity na maipakita yung skills sa international. Hind lang naman sa Team Lakay yun eh, lahat yun."
Banario admits that in the beginning, the thought of being champion wasn't really somethig that they focused on. For them, it was mainly about having a platform to compete and show their skills.
"Hindi namin iniisip na one day, magcha-champion kami sa ganitong promotion, basta maka-laro. Ngayon, marami nang champion ang Team Lakay, dahil lang sa ganun na gusto maglaro. Hindi mo namamalayan na lumalaki na."
A testament to the growth of Team Lakay is the fact that they've been able to put up a newer, more complete training facility, one that will soon produce even more stars and more world champions.