August 2017, Pasig City, Philippines: Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes are known for having the biggest hearts. They pour their hearts out in the octagon. But sports being sports, victory is never assured, especially in the global stage where opponents are also champions from their home soil. This is the reason why three of the top local Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters have teamed up as they prepare to bring national pride from their respective fights in the UFC in Japan and China slated this September and November, respectively.
Jenel “The Demolition Man” Lausa, Rolando Gab “Dy Incredible” Dy and CJ “The Golden Boy” de Tomas banded together under the guidance of Philippine Vision Group president Joe Talamayan, who helps them organize their training, conditioning, diet, coaching, as well as marketing the three athletes to get financial supporters.
Lausa, an IloIlo native who won his first fight the UFC in 2016, believes the joint, systematic training with his fellow UFC fighters would be beneficial for their individual development as athletes. “Mas maganda ngayon na magkakasama kami kasi natututo kami sa isa’t isa. Pati ang management ng coaching, training, marketing namin ngayon, organized,” he says.
The son of Filipino boxing legend Rolando Navarette, Dy says getting exposed to a vast array of fighting styles and learning situations help prepare the fighters like them against the generally more well rounded international opponents. “I am thankful for the recent developments in the team. We are not tied to only one gym. We can practice anywhere and with anyone as long as they welcome us,” he says.
De Tomas shares, “Sanay ako na nagse-set ng goal sa buhay at nararating ko naman. Pero ngayon, dahil sa team, pakiramdam ko mas madali kong mararating ang mga gusto kong makamtan.”
De Tomas started practicing Martial Arts at the age of 5. By the age of 12, he started coaching to have enough money just to go to school where he eventually became a salutatorian. At 18, De Tomas told himself he would have a championship belt and so he did, and got another belt one year later. He also told himself that by the age of 20 he would be a UFC fighter. Right now (he is 20 years old), he already is one. He stopped studying after high school. He now supports his family through sports and wants to go to college.
Lausa shares, “Nag-umpisa ako dati sa IloIlo, sa boxing. Mahirap, napakahirap ng pinagdaanan ko. Para lang masuportahan ko ang sarili ko, ang dami kong pinasok na trabaho . Naging janitor, waiter, at coach ako. Naging embalsamador pa nga ako!” he chuckles.
“Di ako sumuko sa training hanggang nag-champion ako sa boxing. Pumunta ako ng Maynila para ituloy ko ang boxing pero wala akong pera. Natutulog ako sa tabi ng riles ng tren! Pinalad ulit ako nung pumasok ako ng MMA at naging champion ako sa URCC. Pero lahat ito, naging napakahirap. Laking pasasalamat ko sa mga tumulong sa akin dati, at hanggang ngayon, lalo na kay Sir Joe. Mahirap ang buhay ng isang fighter. Masarap isipin na bukod sa suporta ng pamilya ko, meron pa akong team na parang pamilya na din,” Lausa says.
“I am so motivated in my next fight! I know I’m a winner,” says Dy. “I will show the world what being Incredible means! I’ve been down so many times in my life and that taught me how to survive against anything and win against anything. I feel powerful, I feel healthy. I am ready! I worked so hard for this!” he adds. A dog-lover, he reflects the personality of his favorite pet and ally, a pitbull. Confident, strong, outspoken but has a soft spot for his close friends and family.
“I feel for the fighters,” says Talamayan, who leads in managing the athletes. “They put their heart and soul in the sport. They practice morning, day and night, to excel in their craft. They rely on fighting as their means of living, to bring their kids to school and feed their families. They work harder than most of us! Building a team that can support them in what they do is the least that we can do,” he says.
“Please support them on their fights. Follow them on social media and give a few words of encouragement, or just say hello. Go Philippines! Let’s unite, and win!” he adds.
“Uniting the fighters as one can bring good things for the fighters and, in a larger scale, for the Filipino brand in the UFC. Filipinos love to root for fellow Filipinos. Winning the three fights is the perfect situation to bring back national pride once again in the UFC,” Talamayan says.
“Please support us. Sana makanood kayo ng mga laban namin. Laban natin ito. Mas masarap lumaban kapag kasama ang buong bayan!” Lausa says.
Dy will clash with Japanese Teruto Ishihara on September 23 at the UFC Fight Night 117 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. De Tomas is awaiting an opponent and will compete in the first ever UFC Fight Night in Shanghai, China on November 25. Lausa is in the middle of finalizing his fight plans in the UFC in the coming months.