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Team Lakay’s legacy: Cultivating champions beyond MMA

Team Lakay’s legacy: Cultivating champions beyond MMA

More than producing world champions in mixed martial arts, Team Lakay is keen on focusing on grassroots development of athletes in the locality.

Long before Team Lakay was a known powerhouse in MMA, founder and coach Mark Sangiao has been training his sights of producing top caliber athletes in other combative sports particularly in the field of wushu.

While some of Sangiao’s top athletes have transitioned to MMA from wushu, only a few braved to sought and try other combative sports like in the case of 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medalists Marianne Mariano.

Mariano, together with Baguio athlete Benjie Rivera were among the toast of the country after the Philippine wushu team bagged four medals in a special tournament held outside of the regular Olympic Games.

The former wushu stand out, who now serves in the Philippine Air Force said this is one her memorable stint during her wushu days where they were given red carpet treatment during their courtesy visit in Malcañang.

But the most memorable for Mariano is her first foray in international competition during the 3rd Asian Junior Wushu Championships held in Singapore in 2005.

“I won bronze because it was my first international competition and first time ko rin maranasan yung sobrang hirap na ensayo sa national team, ‘tas laging biruan sa kwentuhan ang pagod, hirap,pawis, sakripisyo at dugo. Syempre si coach mark ang coach namin going to Singapore together with sir tong (Candelaria),” said Mariano.

The former University of the Cordilleras student then took a back seat in combative sports, and after seven years rejoined the Philippine team, but this time, competes in sambo.

The seven year hiatus, however, did not stopped Mariano from winning another bronze medal together with Helen Aclopen, Jedd Andre Kim, Renzo Cazeñas and Patrick Dos Santos in the team competition.

“Nag pahinga muna kasi ako sa sport dahil nag focus ako sa career ko sa work and syempre para makatapos ng college na din pero sobrang worth it naman lahat,’ added Mariano.

Mariano also saw action during the 2022 ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship where she faced jujitsu world champion Annie Ramirez in the finals and bagged the silver.

Despite her hectic schedule in the Air Force, Mariano said she still finds time to be part of the Philippine Sambo team while juggling her time as a part time coach and having his masters’ degree in public administration and good governance at the Benguet State University.

While fighters may have come and gone, Team Lakay’s legacy will move on with it’s “Future Champion Kids Training” program launched last year, hoping to seek and sculpt the next generation of world-class fighters.

The training is anchored not just on creating fighters and champions inside the ring but to also instill discipline, respect, and resilience among children.


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