ONE FC’s impending MMA Summit will bring together a major representation of industry professionals from across Asia.  One of the topics of discussion will be “Developing a Professional Fight Team”.  Two of the three of the panelists announced for this topic are Heath Sims of Evolve MMA and Boyd Clarke of Phuket Top Team.  The third is Mark Sangiao of Team Lakay.

Team Lakay is one of the most recognized, decorated, consistent, and humble MMA teams in all of Asia.  Coach Mark has actively developed his stable of fighters since 2006.  The Lakay trademark red satin shorts his fighters wear are now equally recognized and respected.   Mark’s love of and dedication to the development of combat sports have made a huge contribution to the sport of MMA in Asia.  These contributions – bother personally and through his stable of 15 pro and 50 amateur fighters – makes Coach Mark an ideal candidate to speak on the topic of developing a professional fight team.

The following article was written by Ofelia Empian and published in the Baguio Chronicle, issue October 30-November 5, 2011 and online here.

Champions are not born. They are made. 
THE smell of sweat permeates the air as I enter one of the best gyms in town. It wasn’t an offensive smell though, because after witnessing the group of people who are training inside, I realized it was the smell of the “champions”. And guiding the champions is their one and only coach. 

Every good fighter is trained by a good coach and the best fighter is equally trained by the best coach. One “best coach” in boxing is no doubt Freddie Roach for carving Manny Pacquiao into one of the greatest boxers of all time.

In the local scene, we have our very own “best coach” too, producing world caliber fighters who have had their equal share of success not only in the national level but even the international level as well.

He is Coach Marquez Sangiao, known as coach “Mark” to many. In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), he is a multi-awarded fighter himself and now he has been producing multi awarded fighters in wushu and mixed martial arts through the years.

Benguet Pride 

Coach Sangiao was born in Kapangan from proud parents Alipio Sangiao and Josie Tacio- Sangiao. He is married to Racquel Sangiao and they are blessed with one child, John Lou Mark, who has also won gold medals in several events at only 9 years of age.

Dreaming to become a martial artist ever since he was a kid, Sangiao was heavily influenced by the moves of famous actors Jean Claude Van Dame and Bruce Lee.

And so his first exposure to martial arts was Kickboxing in 1995 and then switched to Taekwondo in 1998 when he became a varsity player of the then Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras). In 1999, he championed the 1st Benguet Invitational Taekwondo and in 2000, he topped the Full Contact Martial Arts Competition in Manila. He was a gold medalist in the 5th Wushu Nat’l Championships (2000), the 2nd Cordillera Sanshou Championships (2001), the 6th and 8th Nat’l Championships (2001 and 2003, respectively).

In 2001, he joined the Philippine Wushu Team for the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur where he won a gold medal for the country.

He balanced his schooling while being a varsity for the school and by 2003 he graduated and got his degree in Criminology. He was then taken in by BCF where he taught at the Criminology Department from 2004 to 2007 while coaching the wushu varsity team. He is currently taking up his Masteral studies in Education at UC-BCF.

In 2004, he became an international wushu judge after passing the examinations for such wherein he was able to officiate several international wushu tournaments. By 2010, he became the official coach of the Philippine Wushu Team with Tony Candelaria (Cordillera Wushu Federation Head). He said that 90 percent of the National Wushu Team came from the Cordilleras under them.

While busy with teaching and coaching, he had always dreamt of one day having his own gym where he could spend his time honing the skills of his students whom he had seen have the potential to become world class fighters.

Fighting Career and Team Lakay

He is known as “The Machine” in the fighting world with the record of 5 wins (1 by way of knock-out and 4 submissions), 2 losses (1 KO, 1 submission) and 0 draw during his stint at the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC), the Philippine-based MMA promotions, counterpart of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) of the U.S. Also, he championed the 2008 and 2007 Fearless Fighting Championship.

He still holds the national record of the fastest time by submission through arm bar, ending the fight against Steven Ramos in eye-popping 12 seconds during the URCC 6- “Unleashed Fury” in June 2005.

Submission in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world is a variety of technique used by fighters to push their opponents to “submit” (surrender) due to pain or fear of injury.

During his career, he has also organized several fighting events all over the country and has choreographed several fight scenes in various TV shows and movies such as Super Inday (Regal Films), Palos (ABS-CBN), Panday (ABS-CBN) and Kung Iibigin Kang Muli (ABS-CBN), among others.

Through the years, he learned various martial arts including judo, jujitsu, boxing, and wrestling among others enabling him to develop his “mixed” style in fighting inside the ring but stressing submission as his signature fighting style.

“The best experience for me is when every time I have a fight, I am trained to become a hard worker; engaging in this sport is very challenging because you train hard for a year but when the fight comes, it might end only in a split second—either you win or you lose that’s why extreme discipline is needed,” Sangiao related

Now, with his passion for MMA, he started and registered in SEC the “Lakay Mixed Martial Arts Tap Team” also known as “Team Lakay”, which officially started in 2006.

Out of curiosity, I asked the origin of their name and Coach Mark answered:

“Because during that time we often call each other ‘lakay’ (old man) instead of ‘pare’ (mate) and while we were deciding on what to name our group, I saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a print of an old man sitting down so that became my hint in naming the team,” he recounted

As of the moment, Team Lakay has over 15 professional fighters registered in the Games and Amusement Board, around 50 amateur fighters, and 150 to 200 students on training under coach Sangiao.

Since the team started, it has been producing champions in the MMA; now the team has 7 Championship belts, 6 of which were from the national URCC title bouts and 1 title belt from the International URCC in Singapore. Due to this, Team Lakay is now gaining prominence not only nationally but internationally as well.

In martial arts, “a master could only be accomplished once his student could eventually beat him”. And we could say that Coach Sangiao has proven himself as worthy to be called master for the various champions he has produced.

Household names in the MMA world such as Eduard Folayang (URCC title holder, SEA Games gold medalist), Kevin Belingon (URCC title holder), Mark Eddiva (URCC), Rey Docyogen (URCC), Honorio Banario (URCC), Geje Eustaquio (URCC, National Wushu Champ), and Crisanto Pitpitunge, among others.

Team Lakay has now established training gyms at Baguio City (main), La Trinidad, San Fernando and Bauang, La Union. They have also affiliations at Tadian and Bontoc Mountain Province State Polytechnic College, Kalinga, and various clubs and gyms.


Just like any other MMA fighter, Coach Mark wanted his team to reach the “Olympics” of MMA—the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), to have a Cordilleran representing the country and fight in the octagon of UFC.
But as of now, he wanted his team to conquer and make a name in the Asia Pacific fighting championships.

“So that when we get there (UFC), their skills will be finer and sharpened,” he said.

Ultimately, he dreams of one day having another “Manny Pacquiao”, this time from the Cordillera and this time in the mixed martial arts sport.

He said that they will be focusing on promoting the team especially around the locality; various promotions are already scheduled for the team, he said.

When asked how he felt about the team’s achievements and in representing the Cordillera, he said that he felt proud of what they have achieved.

“It is a nice feeling but then it is also coupled with a responsibility on how to maintain our achievements and to further go up the ranks. Sometimes our economic status also reflects on us especially when it comes to the equipment, supplements, gears that we have compared to that of the athletes of other countries but despite that we are trying to research further on how to make our fighters better,” he said.

Coach Mark is also proud to say that his professional fighters are also professionals in real life.

“It is a good thing that we have also penetrated schools in which to train our athletes; our professional MMA fighters are already graduates and holds a degree so they have their own thinking already (they will not be easily duped) and that’s what we really want to establish within Team Lakay,” Sangiao said.

At 32, Coach Mark said, if given the chance, he would still want to fight and get his bantam weight title back. He said that he will need to undergo extreme training too. But as of the moment, he still is concentrating on training and preparing his team for their upcoming fights.

As a coach, he is well revered by his fighters.

“He is a nice coach, like a father to us,” Honorio ‘The Rock’ Banario said.

“I thank Sir Sangiao for his patience in imparting his knowledge, skills, especially discipline to us,”Crisanto Pitpitunge said.

“He is the number one coach in all aspects,” Geje ‘The Gravity’ Eustaquio mused.

“It is a big responsibility to become a coach because you have to be a father to them, I have to discipline them and I always tell them that vices are not good for them; as a coach and manager I also tell them to handle their money wisely,” he said.

And of course this article would not be complete without Coach Sangiao’s message for aspiring martial artists:

“Entering (mixed) martial arts is hard, you have to be a hard worker, your reflexes must be fast, you have to have proper discipline, you have to love what you are doing, you know how to submit to your coach and ultimately you have to call on God, because once inside the ring, there is no one you can depend on but Him,” Coach Sangiao concluded.

These things he mentioned are the core values and character that he lives up to and instills to his fighters which makes him: The Ultimate Fighting Coach for life.


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