Filipino martial arts will have a different look in 2023. Team Lakay has been the beacon of the sport with multiple world championships over the years, but over the past week, those familiar names have announced their exit from the gym. Former ONE Championship titleholders Eduard Folayang, Joshua Pacio, Honorio Banario, and Kevin Belingon all are on their way out.
Folayang was the first to make an announcement via his Facebook page. The former ONE Lightweight World Champion praised Team Lakay but said he needed to evolve in the final stage of his career. He wished coach Mark Sangiao the best and added that it would not be a final goodbye.
Former ONE Championship Title Holders Say Goodbye to Top MMA Gym
“Words will not suffice to aptly impart how grateful I am for our camaraderie that has led to our achievements and victories inside the Circle, as well as the heartbreaks that have driven us to keep going in pursuit of our ultimate goal. I will forever cherish every moment like a precious treasure,” wrote Folayang.
Former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Belingon was next to issue a statement via Facebook. Banario would post his own. Both men echoed the words of Folayang, praising Team Lakay while sharing how much they are looking forward to the next stage in their careers.
“I would like to make a public statement that I’m no longer with Team Lakay. I had a farewell talk with coach Mark Sangiao and we ended on a good note. Coach, thank you for everything and for understanding my need for growth. With whole sincerity, I wish you all the best in life. Leaving the team makes me emotional because it has been my home for the last 16 years. But, at the same time, I look forward for what lies ahead. Fresh start,” wrote Belingon.
Replying to Belingon’s post, Sangiao broke the news of Pacio’s exit. The former ONE Strawweight World Champion had not taken to social media to post about his exit at the time, but Sangiao added his name to the list while sending regards. The amicable split signified an end of an era for Filipino MMA.
“On behalf of Team Lakay and I, wish you all well in your next step. The decision has been made among us and I’m glad we had that final graceful goodbyes talk. God Bless all of us and all the best. Regards to your Manong Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang, Honorio “The Rock” Banario, and Ading Joshua Felix Pacio,” remarked Sangiao.
But this could also be an evolution of the sport in the country. While Team Lakay once held multiple champions, it still has exciting young talent like Jhanlo Mark Sangiao coming up through the ranks. The quartet of former titleholders exiting may spark more interest from Filipino talent wherever they land, increasing the reach of the sport in the country.
While there is a somber note to seeing Filipino luminaries exit Team Lakay, there is a silver lining. As those talents look to evolve, they may find rejuvenation sparking their careers in 2023. Meanwhile, Team Lakay will continue to thrive and add new young talent to the scene.