Team Lakay hoping to follow Evolve example

Team Lakay chief Mark Sangiao hailed Singapore's Evolve MMA as being "worldclass" and hopes his five fighters will complete a clean sweep at One FC Rise to Power in Manila.

Eduard Folayang of Team Lakay celebrates

Evolve are the dominant gym in the region and showed their awesome might by ensuring a complete sweep at last month's Kings & Champions Event. 

Legendary lightweight fighter Shinya Aoki dominated Kotetsu Boku to wrest the One FC Lightweight World Championship off his Japanese compatriot while the likes of Eddie Ng, Leandro Issa, Alex Silva and Jake Butler also secured comfortable victories, boosting the reputation of the Singapore team. 

In the Philippines, Team Lakay play a similar role as they boast some of the best fighters within the country. Currently, their men have won the Pinweight, Flyweight, Bantamweight, Lightweight and the Welterweight titles from the country's native Universal Reality Combat Championships. 

The Filipino group, who were actually formed six years before Evolve in 2003, are seen as one of the most significant challengers to Evolve's quest for regional dominance.

In order to maintain parity, Sangiao agreed that it was important for his fighters to try and win all their five fights at Rise to Power. Most crucially, Honorio Banario will face his first title defence when Pancraseism's Koji Oishi will battle him for the One FC Featherweight World Championship. 

"Yes, we will definitely try our best to sweep [all the fights]," Sangiao told FOX Sports earlier in the month at the One Asia MMA Summit. 

"It's a big pressure on our part [after seeing Evolve dominate]. We levelled up on our training and we researched on other gyms, not only local but also international ones and hopefully we can also win like Evolve did last time.

"Our fighters now are complaining about the training! It's like hell, they say!

"But we're more motivated when we see those kinds of achievement. They're doing their assignment and their job. I'm inspiring my athletes to do what the other gyms [like Evolve] have done." 

However, he played down suggestions that Evolve are their main rivals in the region. Instead, he is aware that other gyms in the vicinity are also improving with each passing month and the Filipino outfit know that they need to work hard to remain among the elite. 

"Evolve are a worldclass camp. They're now also a university. But they are not our main rivals.  We're still young and trying our best to get better. 

"It's not only Evolve that we have to be concerned about as there are many other gyms that are doing their best to show to the world that they're good." 

Sangiao, a former fighter who holds the national record in Philippines for the fastest time by submission (12 seconds) through arm bar against Steven Ramos in 2005, also admitted to being impressed with Belingon's progress in particular.

The 25-year-old has defeated Russia's Yusup Saadulaev and Australia's Thanh Vu and will now face Masakatsu Ueda in the Bantamweight Grand Prix final with the winner expected to get a shot at the title at a future event. 

"Kevin Belingon will have a tough fight. I'm looking forward to it. He has improved a lot. He's really prepared for a world title match.

"I know he would win [against Thanh Vu last month] because in training, he was doing all he could as a fighter. He's always early and does whatever we tell him to do." 

Team Lakay will also have Rey Docyogen, Eduard Folayang and Geje Eustaquio in action at the Mall of Asia Arena on May 31. Currently, their fighters have garnered five wins and four losses in the competition's two-year history. 

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