After capturing the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title, Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio wants to upgrade his belt.
The title of ONE Flyweight World Champion still belongs to Brazil’s Adrian “Mikinho” Moraes, who already holds a victory over the Filipino.
But the pair will do battle for a second time in the main event of ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER. Their contest in Macau on Saturday, 23 June will be a World Champion versus World Champion unification bout.
Despite being the only member of Team Lakay – the Baguio City-based team that has seen a host of former wushu stars make successful transitions to the cage in ONE Championship – “Gravity” does not think his title elevates him above his teammates.
In his eyes, his gym is packed with world champion athletes.
“I do not view myself as the only World Champion in Team Lakay,” he says.
“My accomplishments are not individual. They belong to the team. This belt is not my belt – it is ours.
“My teammates and I are working very hard to improve our skills, and I have no doubt that my brothers will get their due shots. We all share our successes, no matter how big or small. We win as a team, and we lose as a team.
“Team Lakay is more than just a team to me – it is my family.”
Such is the depth of talent at the facility, Eustaquio struggles to pick out one name when asked who would be the next member of the team to earn ONE Championship gold. He believes there’s a whole crop just waiting for their shot.
“Almost everybody is capable and in line for a World Title shot” he explains.
“Team Lakay has come so far over the last few years, and it is all because of our hard work.
“Take a look at the team, and you can see the veterans are still in the running – Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, and Edward Kelly. I will not be surprised if any of these guys get a World Title shot soon.
“Then there are our young guns – Joshua Pacio, Danny Kingad, Gina Iniong, and everyone else. They are all marching towards a World Championship.
“But, if I had to say who is next, I believe it is Kevin Belingon, because he is on a hot streak right now. I am excited for his fight against Martin Nguyen.”
For Eustaquio, being an ONE World Champion not just an accolade of excellence. In fact, it is more like recognition of the effort he’s put in over his martial arts journey.
“The belt is symbolic of all the hard work, all the sleepless nights, and all the sweat I have poured into training at the gym,” he explains.
“What it represents means so much to me. It is the result of all the dedication I have put into my seven-year career so far.
“The belt is valuable intrinsically. I think more than anything else, it represents hope, and I am happy to be in the position to inspire my fans, and all the people who love martial arts.”
The ability to inspire is a major driving force in his career, but overall, it is those closest to him who truly power him to his world-class performances.
“I fight for three things: my family, my country, and the glory of God Almighty,” he says.
“Everything else – the money, the fame, the personal glory – it is a bonus.
“I am working very hard to give my family a good life to make sure we are set for the future. Right now, I have the power to set the path for our future, and I will do everything I can to be successful.
“It is tough now – the sacrifices I have to make as an athlete. I have to spend a lot of time away from my family to train, to fight overseas, and to handle many different obligations. But it is better that I work hard now, and then enjoy the fruits of my labour later.
“That is why I am working so hard – for the people that I love.”
That hard work has seen him team up with his head coach Mark Sangiao to formulate a strategy to overcome Moraes, who defeated him in their first meeting almost four years ago.
This time, however, Eustaquio says he’ll step into the cage as a completely different martial artist.
“My coach and I are coming up with a great game plan for this rematch. I know it is going to be a tough bout, and I can still remember the last time we fought,” he adds.
“It is crazy to think that was years ago, but I know right now we are two completely different fighters. Our skills have improved immensely.
“It is hard to admit, but the first time we met, I was totally green. I just was not ready. 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.”