“The Philippines is a hotbed for combat sports and the fans are some of the most passionate in the world. Filipino combat sports athletes have all the skills to translate well into Lethwei, and I truly believe that there could be a Filipino world champion in Lethwei in the near future,” – Gerald Ng
When the topic of the conversation is the premier hub of combat sports in the Asian region, it is farce not to elicit the Philippines as the first line of thought.
The country has provided a long list of world champions and remarkable athletes in various martial arts. Leading the elite cast is Manny Pacquiao, the only professional boxer in history to win multiple titles in eight different weight classes.
While boxing remains to be the marquee combat sport in the Philippines, mixed martial arts dramatically gained a foothold in the last seven years, mainly because of Mark Sangiao’s Team Lakay. Its fighters have etched an indelible mark in every major organization that they have competed in.
There are also a handful of Filipino competitors who have made a name for themselves in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Meggie Ochoa captured three-straight gold medals from 2014 to 2016 at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. On the other hand, May Masuda became the first Filipina to snare gold at the Mundials in 2009.
Meanwhile, Donnie Geisler and Monsour del Rosario donned the Philippine tri-colors on the international taekwondo stage. Like them, Rene Catalan went against all odds to win both the Wushu World Championship and Wushu World Cup two times each.
With Filipinos performing outstandingly in sambo, Muay Thai and kickboxing at the recently-concluded Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines has seemingly seized almost every spectrum of the martial arts umbrella, except for one—Lethwei.
Formerly known as Burmese Bareknuckle Boxing, Lethwei is considered one of the most aggressive and powerful martial arts in the world. Competitors are allowed to use head-butts, punches, elbows, knees, kicks, clinching, sweeps, and throws to win a match.
As a result, it became immensely popular because of the high-octane encounters it has produced over the years, leading to the birth of revered practitioners such as Kyar Ba Nyein, Dave Leduc, Too Too, Tun Tun Min, Win Tun and Saw Nga Man.
With the nation’s impressive track record in combat sports, one promoter sees a bright future for Filipinos on the thriving scene of Lethwei.
“The Philippines is a hotbed for combat sports and the fans are some of the most passionate in the world. Filipino combat sports athletes have all the skills to translate well into Lethwei, and I truly believe that there could be a Filipino world champion in Lethwei in the near future,” said Gerald Ng, the chief executive officer of World Lethwei Championship (WLC).
Ng sees Filipinos as a good fit in “The Art Of Nine Limbs” as he knows them too well by closely working with the likes of ONE Championship stars Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Honorio Banario under a different capacity in the past.
“Tenacity and confidence are two inherent characteristics of Filipino athletes and especially in combat sports. The martial artists in the Philippines are world-class and that will translate very well,” he stated.
Packaging the historic traditions of Lethwei with cutting-edge technology in media and entertainment, WLC plans to expand globally with the Philippines earmarked as the destination for its maiden international event.
Housing a loaded roster of combatants such as Leduc, Naimjon Tuhtaboyev, Sasha Moisa and Antonio Faria, the Myanmar-headquartered promotion has several Filipino talents on its radar for its first venture on Philippine shores.
“We are actively working on integrating the Philippines into our ten-city calendar for 2020-2021. We are working with broadcasters and events to make that a reality,” Ng revealed.
“The event will feature some of the best Filipino athletes taking on world-class strikers from all over the world. It will be a formidable test, but it will be equally impressive for these amazing athletes if they can come out with the victory,” he added.
While it still unknown when sports leagues in the country could resume operations in the light of the global health crisis, Filipino fight fans will definitely have something new to look forward to.