To the Filipinos, Baguio City is a local tourist destination, a mountain resort known for its temperate climate and high altitude. To the rest of Asia, it is the training ground and home of Team Lakay, one of today’s most renowned MMA teams.
Located in Baguio City, Benguet Province, the Team Lakay gym is hundreds of miles away from the nearest MMA gym. Upon entering the Team Lakay training facility, the first thing that catches your eye are the words, Champions are not born, they are made, emblazoned on a banner. Team Lakay’s motto is a code that former MMA fighter turned coach Mark Sangiao teaches his students to live by.
I’ve sacrificed being a fighter so that I can concentrate on coaching and training my athletes,” says Mark.
His unwavering dedication to his students has proven to be fruitful: He has led Team Lakay to many victories, making them one of the most successful MMA teams in Asia. Team Lakay has produced notable fighters such as Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon, and Gene Eustaquio, just to name a few.
Many wonder how Mark is able to achieve such a feat, coming from such a small town in the Philippines with barely any access to state-of-the-art equipment or brand name coaches. Today, Mark sits down with Evolve Daily to reveal the secrets to Team Lakay’s success:
1. BEING HANDS-ON AND CONSTANT TRAINING
What the Team Lakay gym in Benguet Province lacks in equipment, they make up with constant training and strict supervision. Mark makes sure that his fighters train regularly and efficiently. He also believes in taking a hands-on approach by focusing on each of the fighters’ strengths and weaknesses.
I develop what I see that is missing or lacking in their skills,” says Mark.
2. STAYING CURRENT
“We always stay updated with the latest fights in the biggest MMA promotions via cable TV and YouTube,” Mark explains. In order to stay current with the latest MMA techniques, Mark makes his students watch the latest MMA fights, taking notes from today’s best fighters and their matches.
3. STRENGTHENING YOUR WEAKNESSESS
Although Mark has a background in competitive Wushu, he admits that its techniques are not as transferrable to MMA as traditional freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling. According to Mark, focusing all your energy on your strengths is not as beneficial as working on your weaknesses. “Before, we used to be completely focused on striking,” Mark says, “But now, we put more emphasis on working on our ground skills to balance everything.”
4. PASS ON WHAT YOU KNOW
As a former MMA fighter himself, Mark is able to envision any situation his fighters go through in and out of the cage.
My first-hand experience helps me coach them, and it makes it easier for me to motivate them,” Mark reveals.
His ability to relate to their feelings also makes him more credible to the fighters. Finally, his experience allows him to become not only their coach but an effective sparring partner as well.
5. THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD EDUCATION
Before becoming an MMA fighter and coach, Mark Sangiao wanted to be a police officer. He graduated from the University of the Cordilleras with a degree in Criminology and became a URCC (Universal Reality Combat Challenge) champion soon after that. Armed with his degree, Mark believes that having a good education is the key to a better life, especially after retiring from fighting.
This is what I tell my fighters–one day they’ll decide to stop fighting,” Mark emphasizes, “I’ve always encouraged them to finish schooling. Nothing compares to what you can learn from school.”
6. DISCIPLINE IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
Mark learned the value of discipline at a young age, which was also enhanced from training and competing in Wushu. In fact, Mark received a gold medal in Wushu at the SEA Games. He believes that discipline is an important trait that every fighter should have. He tells us,
The minute someone enrolls in my gym, the first thing I teach them is proper discipline.”
By instilling discipline in his fighters, he knows that they will be armed with the ability to control their emotions and desires, helping them to achieve their long-term goals.
7. TREAT EVERYTHING AS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
After a loss at ONE FC last May, Mark Sangiao taught his fighters to treat it as a learning experience.
We evaluated what was lacking and went from there,” Mark reveals, “Our loss challenged us to do better and our best in future fights.”
Rising gracefully from a loss is a rare accomplishment that not all fighters can achieve. Mark believes that with the right attitude, a loss could be one of the best things that could happen to a fighter.
Ten years ago, Mark Sangiao could not have imagined the many lives he has changed and inspired because of his decision to start MMA. His ability to create champions in and out of the cage with meager resources is lauded by many. His passion shows in the amount of dedication he gives to his team.
Before, I just wanted to become a champion,” Mark says, “And now, I want to produce champions.”
Mark Sangiao has indeed brought honor and glory to his hometown. He has proven that despite all odds, he is not only capable of producing champions, but also a legacy of world-class MMA fighters.