Carrying the proud reputation of Team Lakay isn’t the only thing Jhanlo Mark Sangiao will have to think of when he finally makes his debut in ONE Championship.
He also has to handle the immense excitement of his seniors who are just raring to see their bunso take the promotion by storm the moment he steps inside the ONE Circle.
“I’m super excited for Jhanlo in his debut in ONE Championship,” ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard ‘Landslide’ Folayang said, perfectly encapsulating the feeling for the Baguio-based stable as the son of coach Mark Sangiao finally gets his own shot at glory in one of the world’s biggest sports media properties.
Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio ‘The Rock’ Banario agreed, noting: “It seems like yesterday when he was just a kid, running around the gym playing, grabbing our neck and trying to submit you. It’s amazing how far that kid grew into a fine young man.”
Truly, the Team Lakay manongs have seen Jhanlo grow, with coach Mark raising his son with an up-close view to the world of mixed martial arts. And it’s really no surprise that the 18-year-old picked up the sport and aspired to also be a proud champion like his dad — being with Team Lakay, he’s already seen the sacrifices that his teammates had to do in order to succeed in the global stage.
“I know he has been waiting for this moment for quite some time now,” former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin ‘The Silencer’ Belingon said. “It just seems surreal that the kid that was just playing alongside us while we were training is now one of us.”
But don’t be mistaken: Jhanlo is unlike the stereotypical warrior fans have come to expect from Team Lakay.
His entry provides a glimpse of what a new breed Igorot warrior is — still lethal in striking but one whose more well-rounded approach makes him a dangerous draw for any opponent who comes his way.
“People should look at the compilations of our experiences with these new breeds,” former ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje ‘Gravity’ Eustaquio said, noting that the kind of game Jhanlo and the other younger Team Lakay warriors have is the amalgamation of the lessons they seniors have had over the years. “They shall see the beauty of our transformations. They will also see the real value of teamwork and brotherhood in these young talented athletes.”
“He is very creative in his submissions and he has that undeniable power in his hands,” Folayang continued, and he should know being one of the mentors to Jhanlo.
Reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua ‘The Passion’ Pacio, who is considered as the forerunner of these ‘new breed’ of Team Lakay bets, also shared the same assessment of Jhanlo.
“Mark my words: Jhanlo is a different breed. I felt his strength and it hits differently; you can sense his explosiveness. You’ll see a young, confident, and well- rounded athlete when he steps inside the circle.”
Banario added, “This young man can bring fireworks and a lot more. He’s a complete athlete and a second coming of his father.”
Excitement truly is high for Sangiao’s impending arrival, yet these Team Lakay seniors have kept Jhanlo’s feet firmly planted on the ground, teaching him to manage his expectations and calm his nerves before he gets his feet wet in ONE Championship.
“I told him to just focus on his goals, stay humble, and keep learning and improving,” Belingon said, who will be in the same weight division as Jhanlo. “We always told him to expect the unexpected. In this promotion, you’ll never really know the caliber of your opponent by physique and on paper unless you have gone toe-to-toe with that person.”
For Folayang, his words of wisdom were simple. “As their older brother, I told him and the rest of our younger fighters that their hardwork and patience will pay off as long as they are on the right path. Jhanlo should expect that this is the proving ground for his dreams to come true,” he said.
“This kid has always been guided by the people surrounding him since the start,” said Eustaquio. “He has seen how his manongs work and perform inside and outside of the competitions. I think that’s the best advice he can follow, that he should not take things lightly in the pro league. He should consider every opponent here as monsters who are all hungry for victory.”
Forgive these manongs, though, if they admit that those high expectations include expecting Jhanlo to one day have a championship belt on his waist, with all equivocal in their belief of the destiny that beckons the young Sangiao.
“He already has the heart for it. He just has to continue honing his skills and stay on the path of the discipline he has now,” said Belingon, to which Banario seconded, “He will be a champion one day, 100-percent. He just needs to stay hungry to get to that level, and as I can see in his training, he is driven and has good discipline. He needs to maintain that attitude.”
Eustaquio also agreed. “No doubt JM will also become a world champion. The only thing that matters now is his attitude towards this dream. He should be the hardest worker in that division and maintain the right attitude.”
Pacio is the most confident of Sangiao’s future, noting, “It’s not that I think, but I’m very confident that he will be a champion one day. He trains like a champion and thinks like a champion, and in due time, he’ll be a champion.”