When Honorio Banario stakes on Singaporean knockout specialist Amir Khan at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, he will have his whole team behind him.
The Filipino star – and former ONE Featherweight World Champion – knows his clash with Khan is pivotal to his championship aspirations in the ONE lightweight division, and says having his Team Lakay colleagues in his corner is crucial to his success.
“To have people you can rely on — teammates who have your back, and will help you with becoming a better fighter — has been extremely valuable to my career,” he says.
“We support each other, and pull each other up instead of bringing each other down. As an athlete, especially as a martial artist, it is very important to find a place where you know you belong.”
He knows he can count on his teammates, because they were there when he needed them the most.
After Banario lost the ONE Featherweight World Title in 2013, his form nosedived, and he lost five bouts in a row. “The Rock” was left contemplating his future in the sport.
But his teammates, including his mentor Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, talked him around and built up his shattered confidence until he was ready to return to the ONE Championship cage again.
“My team could have given up on me, after losing five in a row. They could have stopped believing in me, and told me to quit,” he explains.
“But they kept pushing me, and motivating me. You can only have that kind of support with a good team behind you.”
The atmosphere of camaraderie and team spirit throughout Team Lakay has helped propel a host of their star athletes to world titles in ONE Championship.
As well as Banario’s featherweight belt, Folayang is a former ONE Lightweight World Champion, while Geje Eustaquio and Kevin Belingon have won the ONE Flyweight World Title and ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title respectively.
The team led by head coach Mark Sangiao is experiencing a remarkable run of form so far in 2018, with 13 wins from their 16 bouts in ONE.
Banario says the collective spirit within the team is the secret behind their success this year.
“Everyone knows how close we are. We are not just a team, we are brothers. I can say, as a martial artist, this is very important,” he explains.
“It goes past just sharing victories and defeats as a team. We truly grow together and learn from each others’ mistakes. We feed off the energy, and are motivated to succeed.”
Now all the team’s attention has turned to Banario’s bout with Khan, which takes place on 8 September in Shanghai, China.
It is undoubtedly a tough assignment for “The Rock”, but it is one he says he is ready to meet head-on and come through victorious.
“I will never stop believing in myself, because my team will never stop believing in me,” he states.
“My team stands right there beside me, literally drilling with me every day. They push me harder even at my lowest, and their voices are constantly in my ear.
“They remind me every day not to lose hope, and that I am lucky to be doing what I love. It helps me realise that I am capable of so much more than I think.”