ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio’s road to success has been filled with challenges, but he has risen to meet every one as he has grown – not just as a martial artist in ONE Championship, but as a man.
Eustaquio’s family were poor, and his father took the difficult decision to move away from his family in the Philippines in order to work and provide for his family.
It helped give them financial stability, but also meant Eustaquio missed a father figure for long spells of his childhood.
Without a male head of the house, 9-year-old Eustaquio stepped up and looked after his brothers and sisters.
“Life was very tough, because I had to stand up for myself and my siblings,” he says.
“I had to basically take care of the responsibilities my dad left behind. He was away for 10 years. I really missed him.”
Despite the wrench of seeing his father head to another country for his job, Eustaquio understood his reasons. He knew it was done out of love, rather than a desire to get away.
Having seen it for himself, he resolved to do everything he could to fill in for his father, helping the family wherever he could.
As he grew up, he became involved in the striking art of wushu, and used his skills to earn himself a scholarship at the University of the Cordilleras.
His family wanted him to earn his degree and move into a stable job in education. Eustaquio followed their wishes, earning a Bachelor of Secondary Education in 2009 and embarking on a teaching career.
However, it soon became apparent to him that, despite his parents’ pride in his success, it was not the right vocation for him.
“My world became so small. My job took all of my time,” he says.
“They get you from 7:30am in the morning to 5:30pm in the afternoon, then you have homework and paperwork. I was like, ‘No, I am too young for this.’”
He took the decision to leave the profession in order to pursue his growing martial arts career, but he would not turn his back on education. He says it remains a strong part of his ethos, even though he is no longer teaching at a school.
Proof of that was the continuation of his studies while he was rising through the ranks as a mixed martial arts professional, to earn a Master of Arts in physical education in 2016.
“Education is about learning and growing. It is about self-improvement – not just in the physical capacity, but also the mental and spiritual kind,” he explains.
“Our culture treats education as a passport to a high-paying job. Ever since we were young, we were taught that we had to study hard in school in order to get into a good company.
“For me, education is more than that. It is a pathway to becoming a better person.”
Eustaquio’s mixed martial arts career happened almost by accident. He was approached by his former wushu coach Mark Sangiao during a routine training session back in February 2011 and asked he wanted to step into the cage.
A local Filipino promotion needed some short-notice athletes to fill up its card, and the Team Lakay head coach offered a chance to Eustaquio, who grabbed it with both hands.
“Coach Mark said, ‘Why not try?’” he remembers. “So I said, ‘Let’s go!’’’
He knocked his opponent out in 49 seconds, and has not looked back since.
Now, Eustaquio returns to action at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER on Saturday, 23 June, looking to avenge the biggest loss of his career and showcase his evolution as a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
Eustaquio faces a former foe – ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes – in Macau for a World Champion versus World Champion unification bout.
It will be his second chance at taking the weight class’ top spot after losing out to the Brazilian in the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Title bout almost four years ago.
Eustaquio admits he was not good enough to capture the belt on that occasion, but he is coming in as a better competitor this time.
“It is hard to admit, but the first time we met, I was totally green. I just was not ready,” he says.
“Now, my confidence is super high. I believe I can stand and trade with him, and going down to the ground with him is a dream.
“I have so much respect for Adriano, as a martial artist and as a competitor, but it is my time now. I will leave the stadium the undisputed World Champion.”
Eustaquio’s entire career has been based on a strong work ethic that stems from his childhood, and victory over Moraes would represent a victory for an athlete whose dedication has taken him from a poor region of the Philippines to the bright lights of the ONE Championship cage.
“I have worked extremely hard to get to this point, because deep inside, I knew we would meet again. Now I can finally give him a better fight,” Eustaquio says.
“If God permits, the result will be different this time. I am treating this bout as the most significant of my time as a professional mixed martial artist, but because of my hard work and preparations, all that is left is to give the performance of a lifetime.”