Eduard Folayang, Mark Sangiao
Team Lakay head coach and founder Mark Sangiao (left) celebrates with Eduard Folayang (right) inside the ring. ONE Championship


  • A source has shed some light on what is actually happening within Team Lakay
  • The four longtime stars were not eased out of the group as first put forward by the rumor mill
  • They are also not headed to Singapore-based gym Evolve MMA

The surprising departures of Team Lakay stalwarts Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Honorio Banario and Joshua Pacio rocked the Philippines' mixed martial arts (MMA) landscape and with rumors having started to swirl as to why, new information has emerged.

International Business Times sports editor and combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano recently made an appearance on a Philippines-based TV station to shed some truth on the matter.

"When you have this number of people leaving, the immediate thought for most fans is that there's an issue within Team Lakay. They're really the only ones who can answer these questions," Icasiano mentioned in an interview with PTV Sports.

"What I can interpret or, at least, say about the topic is that it's like a family butting heads from time to time. There's that occasional friction or small clashes internally and I think it's normal. If we're going to look at it [from a different perspective], it happens in mixed martial arts."

Folayang was the first to reveal his departure from the gym that helped them reach great heights while Belingon and Banario soon followed suit.

Recently dethroned ONE strawweight king Pacio was the last to speak about his departure, but all of their statements pointed towards searching for greener pastures.

As to where these famed former ONE Championship titlists will take their talents to, Icasiano had the following to say.

"Right now, they are training at KM4 in La Trinidad [in Benguet, Philippines]. It's the old gym of Team Lakay before they went to Pico [which is] also in La Trinidad. It comes in handy for the group, especially for Eduard Folayang since he owns a share of that gym," he revealed.

"Right now, there are plans for Eduard and Joshua [Pacio] to train overseas. There is now a list of potential gyms that they plan to visit. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal them right now, but eventually, the public will know."

Icasiano quickly dispelled notions that the four Filipino MMA stars would be headed to Singapore-based Evolve MMA, which was founded by ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

With regards to rumors about Team Lakay's management forcing them out, Icasiano confirmed that those are also not true.

Seeing the standard-bearers of Filipino MMA depart the gym that helped them reach great heights must be saddening for their fans, but as Icasiano said, such things are a normal occurrence in the hyper-competitive sport.

What they can look forward to though is them still representing the Philippines as best they can inside the ONE Championship cage despite not wearing the signature red trunks of Team Lakay.

Joshua Pacio
Filipino MMA fighters Joshua Pacio and Eduard Folayang celebrate inside the ONE Championship cage. ONE Championship