“Champions are not born, they are made.”
Proudly emblazoned in every Team Lakay gym, this motto of the MMA training house lives up to its full definition as it shelters the leading names in the sport. This major breeding house of MMA champions located in the cold terrains of the Cordilleras conquered world championships and local competitions, placating itself as a spot being the top mixed martial arts gym and champion-breeder in Philippines and among the best in Asia.
The mixed martial art scene has made waves for its field as it has become an anticipated event for every sports junkie worldwide. Producing high-end competitions widely televised, it has gained popularity with its onset of favorites, namely: Brandon Vera, Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva, and female counterparts like Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nounes and Holly Holm to name a few.
The MMA heat has dominated the Filipino domain with a continuous stream of internationally-acclaimed fighters and camps striving to bring home accolades and awards from major international organization bouts like ONE FC and the UFC.
Team Lakay, conceived in 2003 and formally established in 2006, is the brainchild of Marquez Sangiao, a former MMA fighter and titleholder. After winning a bantamweight belt, he formed Team Lakay to open gates for local mixed martial artists a chance to compete and train in national and international tournaments. He also holds the title for fastest submission by arm bar at 12 seconds, testifying to his expertise and experience in martial arts. The name of the gym was coined after his inspiration of creating a team of magbabarkada, “lakay” being a famous endearment for friends back then.
Fueled by his passion for the sport, Sangiao defeated financial stress at the camp’s earlier inception. Sangiao then stated that he “experienced having no cash for fare to travel from La Trinidad going to Baguio for teach in the gym.”
Forming the training camp required Sangiao to sacrifice time, money and a daily dose of physical pain from trainings, saying “training took most of personal time, two to three times in one day.” He was able to surpass these struggles by “maintaining mental toughness and a burning passion for MMA.”
The gym has developed in lightyears from its humble origin. It is a proud home for MMA champs namely: Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belignon, Honorio Banario, Geje Eustaquio, and Edward Kelly to name some. Although the gyms are simply-set and contain humble facilities, the fighters bred by Team Lakay still are renowned for their heart and strength in the ring caused by rigorous trainings and hardcore discipline instilled in them.
Notably, all the hard work of the Team Lakay gyms had paid off by breeding one of the prominent fighters in the MMA action. Sangiao imparted that one of the the greatest accomplishment of the gyms as of now is procuring an MMA world champion through Eduard “Landislide” Folayang. Sangiao was hands-on in the training of the recently-acclaimed champion, giving time and improving the athlete’s technique and style all throughout.
The fighters are renowned for their warrior-like bouts. Aside from their preparations pre-bout, Sangiao contributes the fierceness of each member to their Igorot and Cordilleran nature. He says that “Igorots naturally protect their land, and that they would fight for it if the need arises,” also adding “if it is war, we fight for war,” comparing it to MMA fights inside the ring.
Contrary to their atmosphere on the ring, the Team Lakay fighters are nothing but civil and friendly outside the four corners of a fight. More than anything else, Sangiao expressed his pride over his athletes for becoming successful professionals even outside the ring. All that matters for the trainor is making his country proud by creating champions in and out of the ring.
In the future, he aims for the further success of the athletes and the youth engaged in MMA. He also hopes that the sport would become a part of the tourism in Cordillera, saying that “there are students from outside the province that travel here to learn about MMA.”
Lastly, he left a message for all the Cordillerans, sharing: “Support our athletes. Let us not see MMA as only a physical fight. There are a lot of benefits reaped for the individual participating in the sport.”
By: Jude Thaddeus Damian