By Zike Sugawara
ONE Fighting Championship 15 – Rise of Heroes takes place May 2nd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. In a battle of rising prospects Gianni Subba will face Eugene Toquero.
The main event will be a Bantamweight Championship showdown between the current champion Bibiano Fernandes and Japanese MMA veteran Masaktsu Ueda. Subba’s fight will see him face Filipino striking machine Toquero, who will want to hand Malaysian his first career loss on his own home soil.
Subba is a young 21-year old “new generation” fighter who got into the sport by watching UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter’s first season. He was 13 back then, and he got hooked. When his family moved to the US when he was 15, he then started training in MMA.
Subba started his pro MMA career at the age of 19 against Singapore’s Bruce Loh at ONE FC 6 last October of 2012. He introduced himself in the pro league with a jaw-dropping performance by notching a soccer kick TKO victory against Loh in just 33 seconds of the opening frame.
Since then, Subba went on a roll scoring two more impressive stoppages including his second-round submission win over fellow Malaysian fighter Saiful Merican and another TKO victory against Yun Ting Chen in November.
Despite being undefeated and slowly becoming one of his country’s top fighters at a very young age, Subba remains humble and knows that he still has ton of work to do and lessons to be learned.
“The biggest lesson of my career so far is that I still have a lot to improve. I think it is getting to train with high level guys like the camps that I am at, Phuket Top Team and Klinch MMA; there are a lot of talented fighters from those gyms who fought in big fights on a big stage.”
Aside from giving credit to Phuket Top Team and Klinch MMA for making him a better fighter, having a brother like Keanu, who is always there to spar and train with him, is also one of the biggest reasons why Gianni enjoys and loves fighting.
“Having my brother with me during training is very important. I and Keanu started to train at the same time so he really knows my style and how I fight and he really helps me prepare for fights and it is just comforting. I just trust him and it is good to have that.”
Subba’s next assignment is a tough one as he will face one of the best strikers in the Philippines in Eugene Toquero, a Muay Thai veteran who already fought around Asia and won numerous national titles. Toquero is famous for being very aggressive and dangerous on his feet. He is also known for being a good trash talker.
During the press conference last month in Manila, Toquero said that his opponent is young and he would like to punish him. But Subba answered very calmly and told the media that all issues will be settled come fight night on Friday.
“Toquero just like to talk trash, you know. He is a tough guy, who likes to talk, but I know what I have to do and he knows what he has to do, so it does not faze me. Besides, he is not the first guy who claims he can knock me out; he isn’t the first guy to say he will beat me. I’ve faced and beaten guys who said that before. So his trash talking doesn’t bother me at all.”
While Subba is not letting the trash talk by his opponent get to him, he is still candid about what he faces.
“Eugene is a really good striker, a very talented Muay Thai guy. He has knockout power, four wins, four TKOs; so he is no joke, you know. He has good elbows, does well in the clinch, but he has holes in his game I believe. I feel like I’m going to be a little bit stronger than him. I feel like I’m a decently strong flyweight, I feel like I’m a little bit longer and able to take him down if I choose to take him down.”
Gianni trained in Phuket, Thailand for seven gruelling weeks at Phuket Top Team, one of Thailand’s best MMA camps. He trained alongside top ONE FC flyweight fighter Andrew Leone, Bellator’s Anthony Leone, “Ruthless” Rob Lisita, and many other world-class fighters.
“Training camp was good. I was training in Malaysia at Klinch MMA before, and then I moved to Phuket Top Team for a seven-week camp which I just finished. It was good, you know. I’ve been working with high level guys like Andrew, we got a new PTT fighter Charlie, my brother, and Rob Lisita and other guys who just helped me prepare for this fight.”
This fight with Toquero will be Subba’s toughest fight to date and he treats it like it is his going to be his last fight. He wants to climb the ranks slowly but surely and looks to fight for the title eventually. He understands that he is still young and has no need to rush things.
“I am probably one or two years away from beating top fighters in my division. There are still ton of improvements to do. ONE FC got good some signings recently. I feel like Adriano Moraes, who just came out of a huge win over Urushitani, he is definitely up there and I also believe Andrew Leone, who just beat Kojima is also at the top of the division. I feel like those two guys right there are at the top of the flyweight ladder right now.”
Subba will face his opponent in Toquero’s own home of the Philippines. But he’s not concerned with being in hostile territory. In fact, he knows the fans are fight savvy and will appreciate a good match from any fighter.
“Filipino fans are very passionate, you know. I’ve been to the press conference in Manila and had the opportunity to see their good fighters and I feel honoured to fight in front of good people. Filipino fans can expect a good fight from Gianni. I am going to put on a good show for them and I will come out on top.”