MARK EDDIVA on his UFC debut, Team Lakay, and what it takes to defeat “Bieke”

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Undefeated featherweight Mark Eddiva of Team Lakay makes his UFC debut on March 1, 2014 in Macau at the TUF China Finale. He is ready to represent the Philippines flag against China’s Jumabieke Tuerxun.

Mark “El Terrible” Eddiva is a very accomplished Sanshou practitioner who has devastating striking skills in his arsenal. He is a two-time South East Asian Games gold medalist, Asian Wushu Championships gold medalist, and multiple World Wushu Championships medalist. Eddiva’s interest in martial arts started when he and his friends played a local game that calls for a pin to win. Also, watching Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee movies really spurred his interest:

“When I was a kid, I and my friends were playing “Gabbo” or “Ginabbo” where you must pin your opponent to win the game; it was sort of a popular game for us back then, but I didn’t know that we were already practicing the art of wrestling. And my playmates and I were always kicking each other. We loved watching Van Damme and Bruce Lee films and we were trying to mimic their moves all the time.”

It was naturally Wushu which caught Eddiva’s attention when he first saw his cousin, the now-famous mixed Martial artist Eduard Folayang, practicing it:

“I saw Eduard practicing Wushu Sanshou. I wanted to learn Wushu but our school had no program for it back then; so I tried boxing for several months under the guidance of a former Philippines Team boxing coach. I also tried Taekwondo and joined several tournaments back in my high school days, but I realized that Taekwondo was not for me.”

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Courtesy Kenneth Lim Photography

Eddiva wasn’t only a sports fanatic. In fact he engaged in another form of competition that would eventually turn his mind towards MMA:

“I also played chess for several years and represented my school in tournaments. It was the longest sport I’ve ever played in high school!”

In 2003, Eddiva heard from a friend that Team Lakay’s Coach Mark Sangiao was teaching Wushu Sanshou at the University of the Cordilleras. He rushed to see Coach Sangiao and the Sanshou varsity players and tried a session with them:

“After training with him for several weeks, I did the try outs for a spot on the varsity team. Luckily, I was quickly selected to join the team.”

After six months of training, Eddiva joined the National Games at the age of 16, where he placed second. In 2004, he was recruited to join the Phililppines National Team in Wushu Sanshou.

In 2006, Eddiva finally made his MMA debut at the age of 20 at Fearless Fighting Championship against Andrew Benibe. It was a nerve-racking experience for him, but he admitted that MMA was more comfortable compared to Sanshou:

“There weren’t really ton of adjustments I had to make in my pro MMA debut, as I was coming from a discipline where I was used to throwing kicks, punches and taking my opponent down. And the nervousness is always there, but that night, when I made my pro MMA debut, the feeling was kind of light because in Wushu, you must wear headgear and body armor which is sometimes quite distracting. In MMA, you only need to wear a groin cup and very light gloves. It was very comfortable.”

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Courtesy Ronald Martinez/Getty Images AsiaPac

Since that first professional fight, Eddiva scored four more straight wins, including his come-from-behind submission win over the highly-dangerous Muay Thai striker Alex Lee at Legend FC 4 in 2011:

“It was a tough fight but I am thankful that I won that night. I got rocked by three hard knees and was even unconcious at one point. Then when I regained my consciousness, I found myself holding his leg and I heard Coach Mark’s instruction to disengage from Alex’s clinch game. I recovered pretty quickly that time.”

Eddiva was seriously hurt during those opening minutes; Lee’s reach advantage and Muay Thai was giving him a problem. Eddiva freed himself from Lee’s dangerous clinch game and started to regain his composure. Lee smelled blood and stayed aggressive, hunting the Filipino with his razor-sharp knees. Then fortune came; Lee threw another knee, slipped, and Eddiva capitalized on it by taking him down and pinning him. It was the beginning of the end for Lee as Eddiva secured a tight crucifix position, pounding him with punches from the top. Eddiva then submitted Lee in the 4:22 mark of the opening round by way of Rear-Naked-Choke.

Since that fight, Eddiva hasn’t seen MMA action – it has been almost two years. The reason was a personal decision. He decided not to compete as he focused his time and efforts in finishing his university studies. According to Eddiva, he only has two subjects left before he graduates.

However, then came a call from the UFC that put the 27-year-old fighter in a tough situation:

“When Coach Mark told me that UFC wants to sign me, I had huge a dilemma at that very moment because I was really focusing on finishing my studies first before returning to MMA. I talked to Kevin (Belingon) and Eduard about it, and asked for their advice on the matter. They both encouraged me to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent our flag in the UFC while I’m still young. I also prayed to God and asked for His guidance. After having some time praying and asking more people about it, I came up with the decision that I will take this opportunity and fight for the UFC.”

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Courtesy Igorot Journal

The surprise was not only a strategic decision Eddiva had to make in his life, it was also an emotional one:

“After two years without having any MMA fight, I didn’t imagine that the world’s biggest MMA promotion would like to sign me. Though I have had plans on returning to MMA action, I was planning to join PXC or ONE FC, but never did it once occur in my thoughts that a UFC contract will be given to me this early – and I thank God for it.”

Eddiva will make his UFC debut on March 1st against a very dangerous and undefeated fan favorite Jumabieke Tuerxun:

“When they told me that I was about to fight Jumabieke, I took time to watch his fights and studied his game. We are both coming from a Sanda background so it will be an exciting fight. His record doesn’t intimidate me at all because I know he is not invincible and he still does have weaknesses in his game. He is a very talented fighter but he is beatable. I am excited to fight him, that is why I committed myself in training to make sure I get the win.”

Eddiva is making sure that he is doing everything right in preparation for the biggest fight of his life, especially training hard to improve his ground game:

“One of the key adjustments I’m making is to improve my wrestling defense. Because in Sanshou, you just have to worry about defending the takedown but in MMA, there’s different wrestling technique, especially sprawling, which you cannot do in a Sanshou match.”

“El Terrible” is training alongside his cousin Folayang, Belingon and many other world-class MMA fighters from Team Lakay in La Trinidady, Benguet and Baguio City. Training with those fighters is making big gains to his game:

“Training is going very well. My body has already adjusted to it and I am also getting quality BJJ training to improve my submission defense and offense. Training with them really motivates me to work harder. They’ve been in the business for quite some time now and having them as my training partners is a huge advantage for me.”

Eddiva knows that Jumabieke is a highly-dangerous fighter who is riding an amazing 15-0 winning streak. It needs no remarking that he needs to train hard if he wants to win against the talented Chinese. But Eddiva believes that it he is actually a better striker than Jumabieke:

“My advantages against Bike would be my power, reach advantage and boxing.”

This close to his match up, his first weight cut in some time is something he is naturally paying very close attention to, however Eddiva doesn’t find it to be a difficult process for him:

“There’s no problem when it comes to weight cutting. My body is used to it because in Sanshou, especially when you are competing in the SEA Games or the World Cup, it is crucial to get your weight because an extra pound can cost you the match. I even find it more comfortable to lose weight the MMA style where you can use a sauna to shed some pounds, unlike most Sanshou athletes who think they need to do the weight cutting just by yourself.”

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Looking back to when he was just playing the game of “Gabbo” with his friends, Eddiva has come a long way in his fighting career. Though he is just starting to build his name in MMA, there’s no question that he has given his country a lot of accolades when it comes to Wushu Sanshou, and he credits all the success he is getting to God and to the man who is always there to support him and his teammates, the man who he considers as his older brother, Coach Mark Sangiao:

“Coach Mark is like our father and “Manong” or old brother. We’ve been together for 11 years now since the first time I trained with him and I’ve learned a lot of things from him, like how to be tough and having self-discipline. We also ask for his advice inside and outside of fighting. We are lucky to have him as our coach.”

When Eddiva faces Jumabieke in his UFC debut, he wants fans to expect an exciting fight with a lot of exchanges both on the feet and on the ground. He thanks all of his supporters and teammates on his journey:

“To all Team Lakay supporters, continue to support and pray for the team and we thank you for the support, also for the good and bad comments. We take those bad comments as positive and we are motivated by them to excel in our skills. I would like to thank Doc Dave Taclobao, Dr. Fernandez, Mr. June Shotwell, Arch. Mac, my family and teammates, Coach Mark and to all Team Lakay supporters.”

Eddiva also has a special message for Jumabieke:

“To Bieke, train hard. Because I am training hard here.”

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