Some developments in combat sports
By Joel B. Belinan
After the knock-out win by Lito Adiwang in his recent fight in Singapore against an equally famous Japanese opponent, several developments seem to be ushering in a new batch of younger Igorot fighters from the Cordillera, both in the field of boxing and mixed martial arts.
Most recent was the 5th round knock-out win by Ifugao boxing phenom Carl James Martin against Joe Tajones last February 19 in Binan City, Laguna. Interestingly, Tajones was the boxer that won a decision against another Ifugao boxer, KJ Natuplag, in Davao City more than a year ago. Thus, this can be considered the revenge of a fighter through another Ifugao boxer. With the win, Martin maintains his unblemished record of 16 wins with no losses. Martin, 22, has been dubbed by some boxing pundits as the possible new Pacquiao due to his very intelligent fighting system, not to mention the natural power from both his hands. We, however, hope that a more capable manager would take him into his stable to ensure the maximum development of the potentials of this rare Igorot boxer.
Remember Pacquiao before Freddie Roach and Top Rank boss
Bob Arum took him, he was an unknown fighter, but with a very promising potential. Once he was taken care of by the duo, he steadily rose to become who he is now.
The other developments are all in the professional MMA, the biggest of which is the resignation of Team Lakay’s Stephen Loman as bantamweight champion of the Dubai-based Brave Fight Federation. It should be noted that Loman had been that fight league’s bantamweight division champion since 2017. He defended his belt four times in nearly four years making him the longest title holder in the Brave Fight Federation. The interesting development is that Loman immediately signed a contract with One Championship last week. This caused a lot of debate among MMA fans and observers considering the fact that Kevin Belingon is also in the bantamweight division of One Championship and in fact remains a top contender, he being once the title holder in that weight division.
Belingon undoubtedly is one of the most popular Team Lakay fighters in the league with Edward Folayang who remains the face of our country’s MMA. Does this mean that Kevin is conceding to Bibiano Fernandez (the current champion) with whom he had one of the longest rivalries in One Championship? They recorded four fights against each other.
The take here is Belingon is from Kiangan, Ifugao while Loman traces his roots to Banaue, Ifugao and Sadanga Mountain Province. Let us see if in the future the younger Loman will even the score for Belingon against Fernandez who hails from Brazil.
After Loman left the Brave Fight Federation, Jeremy Pacatiw another Team Lakay fighter who has been fighting in the Brave Fight Federation for the same period as Loman was reported also to have left that fight league and is hoping to join his teammates in One Championship.
I have watched a few fights of Pacatiw in the Brave Fight Federation and in my humble opinion, in three or two fights, he was robbed of his supposed wins. This to my mind is reason enough that when Loman left the league, the idea of leaving immediately came to his mind. This is not to mention the fact that since this pandemic, the Brave Fight Federation did not have an event compared to One Championship.
The most intriguing development, however, is the entry into the professional MMA of two Igorotas, Jennelyn Olsim and Erika “Sly” Bomogao. These two pretty lady pugilists happen to come from our country’s Ladies Muay Thai Team. Olsim together with his brother Jerry use to train with the Tribal Submission Team Torogi, of Coaches Crickets Villareal and Brent Velasco. Both the Olsim siblings who trace their roots to Buguias, Benguet are now in the Team Lakay. Jennelyn’s debut in the MMA will be on March 19 in Singapore against a Brazilian MMA lady fighter.
Erika “sly” Bomogao of course is the daughter of Baguio City Councilor Benny Bomogao. She had been carrying the banner of the country in several international competitions as a lady Muay Thai fighter. She garnered a silver medal during the 2019 SEA Games. Prior to that, she had been in wushu, Pencak silat and Muay Thai representing Baguio and Benguet. As we were going to press, Sly Bomogao was having her debut last Friday, February 26 in Singapore.
By the looks of these developments, we may be witnessing a new era of younger Igorot combat fighters, and, yes, there are more and more ladies taking interest in this once male-dominated field. **