Filipino fighter to defend world championship belt against fellow Pinoy martial artist

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — It will be a face-off between two Filipino fighters in the main event of ONE Championship: Masters of Fate on Friday, November 8, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Reigning ONE Strawweight world champion Joshua Pacio will defend his belt against compatriot Rene Catalan.

Since ONE Championship’s inception, this will only be the second time where two homegrown talents clash for a coveted world title.

Pacio is determined to remain in the win column after his triumph over former Japanese world champion Yosuke Saruta—from whom he regained the ONE Championship gold last April.

The 23-year-old Team Lakay prodigy said he is aware of Catalan’s tenure and ‘complete’ martial arts skills. This, he added, is why he has a huge respect for his 40-year-old opponent.

“Sir Rene has been doing this for a very long time, even before I started taking up the sport,” Pacio said.

Pacio—whose highlight-reel victories manifest his unpredictable approach inside the ring—said he is looking to take Catalan out in the first three rounds.

“This is my time… I am not willing to let go of this title,” Pacio said.

Multiple Wushu world champion Catalan, on the other hand, also hopes to add another victory to his impressive six-bout win streak. He has rightfully earned his shot at the strawweight throne after defeating former Japanese world champion Yoshitaka Naito via TKO in just the first round of their bout in March.

Aware of the fact that Pacio is 17 years younger than him, Catalan recognizes the advantages of youth in a physical sport such as mixed martial arts, especially in terms of recovery.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ Sports Desk, however, Catalan maintained that it is not entirely about age.

“It’s about determination to reach the goal, and to get the belt,” Catalan said.

While some consider it unfortunate that the main event will be an-all Filipino showdown, Catalan said it will be win-win for the motherland.

“No matter who wins, the honor and glory go to the Philippines,” Catalan added.

Road to redemption

Aside from Pacio and Catalan, the ONE: Masters of Fate fight card features other Pinoy athletes.

Former two-time ONE Lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang will prove that he is still a force to reckon with as he goes against Mongolian Amarsanaa Tsogookhu—known for his commendable display of striking and grappling—in the evening’s co-main event.

Folayang will try to redeem himself after two setbacks. In August, American MMA star Eddie Alvarez submitted Folayang in their ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix semifinals bout.

Folayang, in an interview, said he started training immediately after taking a brief rest from his last match.

“My preparations have gone well… I know what went wrong in my previous bouts, and I will not repeat the same mistakes. I will redeem myself in front of my fellow Filipinos,” Folayang said.

Another Filipino martial artist on the comeback trail is former ONE Flyweight world champion Geje Eustaquio, who is set for a highly-anticipated rematch against a taller foe in Toni Tauru of Finlad. Tauru defeated Eustaquio via rear-naked choke in their first encounter in 2016.

Eustaquio said he wants to be known as ‘The King of Rematch,’ and overcoming Tauru may prove that.

“Things haven’t gone my way this year… [but] I can honestly say that I am a better martial artist now than ever before,” Eustaquio said.

Rene’s younger brother, Robin Catalan, will also see action tonight. He will face Cuban Gustavo Balart in the event’s preliminary matches.

Robin is eager to prove that he is a serious contender in his division, and knowing that he will represent the country on the global stage gives him the extra push.

“The Philippines has the most amazing martial arts fans in the world,” Robin said.

The ONE: Masters of Fate preliminary round will commence later at 5:30 p.m.

Here's the ONE: Masters of Fate fight card