Rene “The Challenger” Catalan will always have mixed emotions facing a fellow Filipino inside the ONE Circle.
Even when he faced reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE back in November 2019, the multiple-time Wushu Champion admitted that he felt troubled in his desire to win a world title at the expense of facing a compatriot.
“My heart wasn’t there, especially that I’m facing a fellow Filipino. I guess it’s always going to be there, that you feel half-hearted because we all want to bring glory to the country but we have to face each other,” he said.
Despite those feelings, Catalan said that he still gave it his all, knowing that his time fighting is already fast approaching its twilight.
“I still aimed to win that match because it really was my dream to win a world championship before I retire,” stated the man behind the Catalan Fighting System.
Unfortunately, Catalan was on the wrong end of an arm triangle choke, submitting to Pacio in the second round in his first ever shot at the crown two years back.
At 41 years of age, Catalan understands that he really isn’t a spring chicken anymore. And for senior fighters like him, he also knows that title shots don’t come that often.
That’s why he’s just making the most of the doors opening his way, hoping to get himself back into the title hunt by stringing up a winning streak and earning his place once again in the ONE rankings.
Truth be told, it’s going to be a tough climb for Catalan — with all of the fighters in the strawweight list considerably younger than him.
The closest to Catalan’s age is no. 1 contender Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta, who is already 34.
The rest are just nearing the primes of their careers, with the current champion Pacio only 25 years old, no. 2 Bokang “Little Giant” Masunyane 27, no. 3 Hiroba Minowa 22, and no. 5 Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang just 28.
But rather than viewing his age as a disadvantage, Catalan is looking at it more as an edge as he banks on his experience in his next fights.
“Yes, I am a veteran athlete and I know I’m about to face young fighters. I know that in combat sports, people will always look at the younger fighter as the one who holds the advantage. But there’s no question on my drive, my fire to be considered a contender again,” he said. “Like I said, I’m motivated to challenge for the belt again and become the world champion before I retire.”
Catalan looks to begin that climb anew when he faces former ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: NEXTGEN III on 26 November in Singapore.