Team Lakay has built an incredible reputation for success. Under the guidance of Mark Sangiao, the gym has produced eight world champions, as well as numerous other accolades across various disciplines in martial arts.
But as impressive as all of the belts and trophies are, it’s the deep-seated values the fighters display outside the ring that makes them such a fantastic example for any aspiring young athlete. Primarily, it’s about respect. Respect for their coaches, respect for their opponents and respect for their roots.
Just like sons from different countries and backgrounds around the world, these elite athletes spent Mother’s Day celebrating where they came from. The person responsible for nurturing their dreams. The one who helped build them to be the men they are today.
For a tough and hard-hitting phenom like ONE Warrior Series winner Lito Adiwang, vocalizing his appreciation can sometimes be a challenge, so he embraces the added impetus that this special day brings.
“Through my actions, I give all my care and love to my mother every day. But growing up, especially as an Igorot, we are not used to saying, ‘I love you, mama’ or expressing these feelings through words. So for me, Mother’s Day is important because it gives us a reason to open up and express these feelings.”
Elsewhere, teammate Danny Kingad has established himself as one of the most exciting talents in Asia. Having performed valiantly against Demetrious Johnson in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Final in Tokyo last year, the 24-year-old returned to winning ways in January with a victory over China’s Xie Wei.
His record now stands at 14-2, and being ranked second in the division, he’s primed for a second world title shot in the near future.
Despite his success in the ring, Kingad endured a wave of adversity on his way up, having come through poverty, as well as the tragic loss of his father at a young age. He credits his mother as an integral source of inspiration throughout his journey.
“For me, it is always Mother’s Day. Nothing can beat a mother’s love. Being a mom is not simple. There’s a lot of hardship and sacrifice. She’s very important to me because she gave me life. She took care of me when I was young, corrected me and taught me a lot of lessons in life. I know I would not be where I am now without her. She helps inspire me. She always encourages me to train well, and just having her supporting me is like having thousands of fans around the world.”
Eduard Folayang, meanwhile, is very much a leader at Team Lakay. As a former world champion in URCC and ONE Championship, as well as a three-time SEA Games gold medalist in Wushu, he has the most accolades of anyone in the gym.
He is often hailed by his coach and Team Lakay brothers as the biggest mentor in the group and is, in many respects, considered the team captain. His influence is essential to the team’s success, so perhaps they have his mother to thank for instilling such strong values in her son from the onset.
“We need to be reminded of the sacrifices and hardships our parents went through to take care of us, especially our mothers. My mother is very important because she is the one who molded discipline in me and taught me the principles to live by. She has been my inspiration to keep going, even in my darkest times.”
Given the high stakes of mixed martial arts and the intensity of the bouts, it must be challenging for mothers to see their children in competition. Here, the fighters have had varying experiences. Eduard, for instance, suggests that having his mother ringside gives him “mixed emotions and a very big motivation to do my best to get the win.”
For Lito, fighting was at times an excuse to unite the family.
“In the middle of my fighting career, I convinced my mother to come and watch me fight
in local events because I’d asked my father to come as well, so at least during my
fight, we could be all together again. At that time, they were separated. But after my local fights, she preferred to just watch it on video.”
Danny’s mother, too, prefers not to be there in person.
“She never watched. I think it isn’t because she doesn’t support me, but just because she doesn’t like to see her son getting hurt. At the end of the day, I know she has my back, win or lose.”
For men like Lito, Danny and Eduard, life as an elite martial artist is often oriented around a goal. Always working towards the next challenge. The next belt.
Their success brings joy to millions of Filipinos, as well as other fans around the world.
But that success is built on a strong foundation. Three strong Filipino women who deserve credit for molding these warriors and shaping their values. Like all mothers, they deserve to know how appreciated they are.
In that regard, just as Danny suggested, “It’s always Mother’s Day.”