Lito "Thunderkid" Adiwang
Lito "Thunder Kid" Adiwang returns to action at ONE on Prime Video 6 in January. ONE Championship photo


  • Mark Sangiao talks about Lito Adiwang's return to action
  • Adiwang meets Mansur Malachiev at ONE on Prime Video 6 in January
  • Adiwang is coming off an ACL injury

After nine months of sitting on the sidelines due to injury, Team Lakay spitfire Adiwang will finally be making his return to action at ONE on Prime Video 6 this coming January 14 (January 13 in the United States) at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.

Adiwang immediately steps into the fire as he meets an ultra-tough assignment in undefeated Russian newcomer Mansur Malachiev, who's also the reigning Eagle FC flyweight champion.

One would think, given that he's coming off a potentially career-threatening injury, that Adiwang would have angled for an easier opponent for his return.

According to Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, it would have been easy to turn down such a dangerous fight, but that's just not how they conduct their business.

"This fight was offered to us even before the December Manila event, and considering all the factors involved like Lito's injury, recovery and inactivity, the death of his father, the high caliber of his opponent, it was so easy to say no and wait for a while. However, Lito didn't turn it down," Sangiao told International Business Times sports editor and combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano.

"We never turn down a fight and let's say the level of his opponent is supreme, but all athletes now in ONE are on the top of their games, aren't they? We saw that last December, and so the more we should put our athletes to the test."

Sangiao added that the best way to keep their fighters sharp is by going after the tough fights.

"There is no way for us to grow and level off with these par-excellence athletes if we just sit at the gym and watch," he stated.

Sangiao added that there is no such thing as safe or easy bouts for his prized wards.

"It has always and will always be high risk and high reward in the case of Team Lakay athletes. We never had a safe fight, we always have that tough opponent and we're mentally conditioned to that," said Sangiao.

Before putting ink to paper, Sangiao made sure that "The Thunder Kid" was indeed ready to get back into the battlefield.

Adiwang suffered an ACL injury in his bout against compatriot Jeremy Miado back in March and has been sidelined ever since.

Sangiao shared that it was Adiwang himself who expressed he was ready to come back.

"What made me nod with reliance to sign this bout is Lito himself. 'Let's do this, Coach,' he said. So that was it! Who best knows his physical and mental readiness is he himself," the stable lynchpin bared.

As for Adiwang's recovery, Sangiao mentioned that it was a good process overall.

"It was good progress and recovery. His doctor initially gave him six months to recover. He did swimming for therapy and his doctor cleared him to be in the Circle again," Sangiao divulged. "It's good and we thank the Almighty for continuously giving Lito a powerful physical, mental and emotional state in the light of all the trials he had in life."

Mark Sangiao, Lito Adiwang
Team Lakay founder and head coach Mark Sangiao (left) gives his instructions to ranked strawweight Lito Adiwang (right) in between rounds. ONE Championship

For Sangiao and Adiwang, the goal in this fight is clear—leave Bangkok with the victory.

"It's all about winning, in any way possible," the trainer mentioned. "Then each win will bring him one step higher in the ranking, one step closer to the belt."

Currently, Team Lakay is going through what appears to be a crossroads.

While more seasoned members such as Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio and Kevin Belingon are all experiencing slides, the venerated group's "Next Generation" of talents like Jhanlo Mark Sangiao, Jeremy Pacatiw and Stephen Loman are all showing immense promise.

Technically one of Team Lakay's newer implants on the ONE Championship roster, Adiwang hopes to be able to also further solidify the squad's future torch-bearers.

While it isn't always sunshine and rainbows with Team Lakay, Sangiao remains grateful to those supporters who have stuck around.

"We're super appreciative to the people who are with us not only in victories but in our defeats as well and most especially. There are those people who love to celebrate with us when we have our hands up but leave and criticize us when our heads are down. It's fine. That's how it is," Sangiao stressed.

"To the people who were with us, who are with us, and who will continue to be with us either in good or bad times, we owe you."