Jhanlo Mark Sangiao is saying the right things to the press. ONE’s recent release about welcoming him to the promotion showed Sangiao speaking candor and honesty after getting a ONE Championship contract without so much experience in an MMA ring professionally.
Much to my happiness as a Cordilleran to see another Igorot fighter get paid for their hard work, I was wondering what other fans view this signing in the light of the fact that other fighters have to undergo some kind of proof to earn a ONE contract, like having multiple fights and wins in other promotions or multiple appearances in the ONE Warrior Series.
According to Sherdog.com, Sangiao has just one professional fight under his belt, a 1st round TKO by strikes win over Danilo Dangalan on May 5, 2018 during TLC – Team Lakay Championship 15.
True to my suspicion, the issue about his family name and his association with Team Lakay being a reason of the contract indeed cropped out as I scoured to some online comments about the signing.
Such comments are unfair because while he may not have the professional experiences to show, he literally grew up in the premises of the gym which was proven to produce champions in MMA promotions.
It is not hard to imagine the volume of knowledge he must have acquired during those times and if he wants to put them to good use, he should not be denied the opportunity to do so.
It is not his fault to be born with a father who is a prominent MMA figure and main character of a prominent organization. The young fighter understands this and is ready to face the challenges as he attempts to make his own name.
Looking back, Sangiao could only smile knowing how far he has come. “Nung nag-start pa lang ako, ako yung laging nagta-tap, ako yung binabaliktad lang,” he said.
Such beating is expected especially if you’re the greenhorn in a fabled gym like Team Lakay in Benguet, who has honed numerous Filipino world champions in mixed martial arts.
Jhanlo, however, is aware what kind of luck being the son of legendary coach Mark Sangiao and having legendary teammates like Eduard Folayang brings him. It built grit that no matter how many times he got manhandled and tapped on the mat, he always came back stronger.
“Eventually, I just built myself up and was able to hold my ground. Ang swerte ko na may teammates ako na world champions. Sila din ang motivation ko at sila ang nagpu-push sa akin kasi sila ang partner ko pag nagte-training,” he said. “Sumasama ako pag may event sa Manila and every time na nanalo sila, nandoon yung fire na gusto ko rin sumali, na gusto ko rin lumaban sa cage. Nandoon yung passion.”
The 18-year old Sangiao showed youth and exuberance once the chance to make his MMA dreams a reality after signing with ONE Championship last week.
“When I was given the contract, I couldn’t believe it. The dream I’ve had since I was young was already here,” he said. “I had mixed emotions of nervousness and excitement that I can’t explain it.”
It truly was a longtime coming for Jhanlo, who always was magnetized to the world of MMA with his dad Mark a decorated champion in his own right.
His exposure to the sport at such a young age dragged him to also step inside the cage.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was surrounded by athletes, papa’s students, and his teammates. When he was teaching, he would bring me with him. And I think that’s where I got the passion for the sport, that I was used to seeing them fight and that I also wanted to fight for myself. I wanted to experience that feeling of having my hands raised and winning a match,” he said.
Jhanlo also understands that wading through these new territories in ONE Championship is also a double-edged sword, that it comes with the pressure of living up to the glorious reputation Team Lakay.
But he insisted that coach Mark has already prepared him for these kinds of adversities from a young age.
“Papa is very strict with me, which isn’t bad cause I know it’s for my own good too. But he always told me that in MMA, I have to always train, be passionate, and enjoy what I’m doing,” he said.
The younger Sangiao furthered, “This is already the big stage. This is unlike the amateurs. Yes, there are nerves, but that shouldn’t be a reason why I will cower against my opponents. There’s also pressure because I just signed with ONE Championship and many people are already looking forward to seeing me fight. They’re asking on social media when my fight is and how strong I am given with my surname. But I just continue to train hard to be able to show what my talents are.”
Sangiao may be yet to make his debut, but the prodigy is already setting lofty goals in this foray with ONE Championship as he truly wants to reach for the stars.
“Isa lang naman ang goal ko: ang maging world champion at maging successful din tulad ng mga kuya kong world champions. You have to be passionate to reach that but you also have to train hard and have the right character. I want to be known as a champion, but more than anything, I dream to be one of the legends, too, like Demetrious [Johnson],” he said.
For now, though, Jhanlo said that his arrival also signals a changing of the guard for Team Lakay as he seeks to give a new dimension to the famed stable.
“When you see Team Lakay fighters, people always assume that we’re all strikers,” he said. “Now, expect that this is the new breed. I’ve trained to build new weapons and new skills, not just on the stand-up but also on the ground game,” he said.
“If you ask if I think I can be a champion, I don’t say I think. I know I can.”
This young man indeed has lots of pressure on him. It’s a good thing he understands the things that goes along the territory he is in and that he was thought the the right mindset to deal with them.
By Armando M. Bolislis