How ONE Championship changed martial arts in the Philippines
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 16, 2020 11:47 AM
Team Lakay once held four world titles in ONE Championship
ONE Championship has played a crucial role in molding the landscape of mixed martial arts in the Philippines.
In a boxing and basketball-crazed country, The Home of Martial Arts paved the way for Filipino martial artists to finally showcase their wares on the global stage.
For Mark Sangiao, head coach of Team Lakay and one of the pioneers that helped build the sport in the country, the success of the world's largest martial arts organization has to do with the highly competent people they hire.
“ONE is such a big help in mixed martial arts, not just in the Philippines but in Asia as a whole. It helped spread martial arts, not just MMA but in kickboxing and Muay Thai as well. I think it’s one of the keys why martial arts is so big in Asia right now,” Sangiao said.
“They also hire the right people. They work with people who are really passionate about martial arts, including us which represents the country in this organization.”
Hiring the right people ultimately paid dividends for ONE according to Filipino sports analyst Nissi Icasiano, who said the organization was successful in transcending the sport to new heights in a span of eight years.
“When ONE came here in 2012, the landscape of combat sports really changed because finally, we have a world-class promotion, which I felt was deprived from us,” Icasiano said.
“When North American-based promotions come here, usually they hold off on their best offering for the Filipino MMA fans, I felt like we were deprived from getting what we deserved.
“ONE went all out. Aside from giving the best cards, they helped the ecosystem of MMA because they gave Filipinos a platform, especially Team Lakay, which produced five World Champions.”
Where many local promotions failed, ONE Championship succeeded. For Sangiao, a key marketing strategy that has worked wonders for the organization is the fact that they go heavy on promoting the values of martial arts.
“For me, the most important thing that ONE has done is their aggressiveness when promoting the sport,” Sangiao said.
“On our part, it gave us the platform to inspire the youth in taking up martial arts. What ONE wanted to promote was not just entertainment, but also the values of martial arts.
With the stage set, all it needed to be fully embraced by the country was a relatable figure – and it was that humble gym high in the mountains of Baguio City that grabbed the opportunity and ran away with it.
“Team Lakay got the platform they needed in terms of improvement. Before when you say Asian MMA, people would only look at Japan. Now they are seeing the other areas of Asian MMA growing,” Icasiano said.
“With ONE, they brought a world-class platform here where the fighters don’t really have to fly elsewhere. They brought world-class here. That’s a huge advantage for Filipinos and now we’re seeing that.