Rene Catalan is a multiple time wushu world champion. He’s also won his last six ONE Championship fights to establish himself as a top contender in the strawweight division.

But the 40 year old’s ambitions don’t end there. He plans to compete in sambo at the 2019 SEA Games later this year,

“It’s been 14 years (since Catalan won a gold medal at the SEA Games). I am just so happy to be given the opportunity to represent the Philippines once again. Ever since I was a kid, my main goal has always been to give honor to my country. Now, I have another opportunity to bring home a gold medal to the Philippines.”

Catalan currently holds a 6-2-0-1 record and scored a first round stoppage win over former champion Yoshitaka Naito in his most recent fight. He is the top contender in the strawweight division and still has his sights set on a title shot,

“ONE Championship is still my priority. I am thankful because they allowed me to be part of the national team. I can still accept a fight until October before I turn my focus to the SEA Games,” he said.

Patriotic pride

However the belt is already in the Philippines. It is currently the property of Joshua Pacio and Catalan admits he has already declined one offer to face his compatriot in a title bout,

“To be honest, I don’t want to face a fellow Filipino for the sake of the belt because it’s not really for the glory of the Philippines. We’re of the same blood. I have always supported Filipino fighters (and) I want to keep on supporting Filipino athletes, and as much as possible, I’d like to avoid fighting them,” he said.

Catalan will not completely rule out the possibility of a future fight with Pacio. But for now he is focused on bringing glory to the Philippines rather than fighting Filipinos,

“Not everyone is given a chance to represent the country. That’s why I’m going to work double time in training sessions, so I can repay the trust that the country has given me. I’ll definitely give my all to guarantee a gold medal in my last stint at the SEA Games,” he said.

Harsh treatment

Catalan’s patriotism is admirable given the treatment he received from the Wushu Federation of the Philippines. He was so successful that they demanded he retire during the peak of his powers,

“My time with the wushu national team was cut short when I was 26 years old. I was asked to retire to give way to other athletes. I was just starting in wushu back then. I had dreams of becoming a ten-time wushu champion and to bring home numerous gold medals to the Philippines,” he said.

Catalan had no intention of walking away from the sport as a multiple time world champion in his physical prime. But he had no choice in the matter,

“But I had no other choice because they’re the authority. I felt bad. I was at the peak of my prime, but they forced me to retire from the team. They were seeing how much I sacrificed, but it fell on deaf ears,” he said.

Multiple options

Time might not be on Catalan’s side. But as a top ONE Championship contender and a national level sambo practitioner he has plenty of options.

He hopes to add another SEA Games gold medal to his collection this year. And a ONE Championship title shot might be on the table too, but he doesn’t want to have to go through another Filipino to get the belt.