Fighters from the well-known Team Lakay camp will now enjoy a modern training facility as they opened its new headquarters last month in La Trinidad, Philippines.

From an old cramped-up space with limited equipment, the new facility houses better training kits, a much bigger space for grappling drills, physical therapy and dry sauna rooms, and a full-size replica of an MMA cage that they have never had before.

“It’s bigger and it’s much more complete. Our athletes are much more comfortable. It has a cage now, and there’s much bigger space for us to spar. There’s no reason for us now to come in unprepared,” Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao said.

The brand new gym will now serve as Team Lakay’s home base of operations. According to Sangiao, the planning of the structure started in January of this year but construction did not begin until April.

“We just planned it this year and four months ago, we started working on it. It opened in August and will be the new headquarters of Team Lakay.”

Premier stable

Under the tutelage of Sangiao, Team Lakay has grown into the country’s premier stable of mixed martial artists, producing champions like Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio, Joshua Pacio, Honorio Banario, Stephen Loman and Crisanto Pitpitunge.

Other fighters to have represented Team Lakay on the international stage include Rey Docyogen, Danny Kingad, Edward Kelly, Gina Iniong, Mark Eddiva, Dave Galera, Roldan Sangcha-an and April Osenio.

What makes the squad’s phenomenal run in the sport remarkable is the fact that it has achieved so much working with so little. Its operational budget has been close to zero, and the gym scrimps to make ends meet to cover costs.

Whether it is the superstar of the team or an up-and-comer, its members made up for the lack of resources with the desire and hunger to train harder than any other athlete,

“We need to feel the environment when we go out to compete. In the past, it was limited. We just had a cage fence to do our scrimmages, but now our athletes have the whole cage,” Sangiao said.

Long journey

Sangiao could not help but look back on how far they have come since Team Lakay’s inception in 2003. After 16 years of hard work, which included several setbacks and frustrations, here they are, standing inside a full-blown, modern gym in the La Trinidad village of Pico, which is a few minutes away from the province’s capital of Baguio City.

“It’s a difficult process. We started over a decade ago in a gym with limited facilities, but because of passion and teamwork, we’re here and we have a better gym,” Sangiao said.

“We will not stop here. If there are things that can be improved, we’ll improve. This facility, it’s not just for local or national events. This is for international, so we need to keep in step with the facilities,” Sangiao added.

Sangiao has been a busy man as of late. As well as overseeing the construction of the new facility he has been preparing Belingon, Kingad, Banario and Lito Adiwang for their respective bouts at ONE: ‘Century’ in Tokyo, Japan on October 13th.

Symbol of success

Folayang sees the new facility as a symbol of Team Lakay’s success and still remembers the days when they were struggling and grasping for support,

“I think this is very meaningful because you see the results of our struggles in the past. It’s a reminder that we’re doing things correctly, because if not, then we wouldn’t be here. These are the fruits of our sacrifices. This is where our effort goes,” Folayang stated.

This is just the first of many developments for Team Lakay, and Folayang is excited to see where they will wind up in the future,

“We’re still looking forward to better facilities in the future, but we’re very happy that we’re here now. Maybe someday we’ll be bigger for our future athletes,” he said.

New toys

Meanwhile, Kingad feels his new toys at Team Lakay’s more modern gym will help him reach peak form as he gears up for the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix final clash against Demetrious Johnson,

“This is very timely because when we’re working on new equipment now, unlike the old ones which could be faulty. Now we have a cage and it’s very spacious so we won’t be limited,” he said

Joshua Pacio, who is expected to defend his strawweight title again before the end if the year, is also pleased with the new facilities,

“Our area for Crossfit is now wider. We could also do more in our weight training program, things we can’t do back then. Now there’s no reason for us to come unprepared.”