HIS fighting career might've started a little later than the usual, but Jomar Pa-ac of Team Lakay is eager to make up for time lost.
Giving up his position in the University of Cordilleras, the 24-year-old Igorot left his senior high school teaching job to focus on training with the renowned mixed martial arts stable in Baguio — all while still attending law school.
One can only tackle so many things at once. But to enter ONE Championship (like his seniors Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Joshua Pacio) has always been his goal.
Pa-ac is a former fighter in the Brave Combat Federation, where he held a win-loss record of 3-1. The Bahrain-based promotion was his first-ever international appearance. He signed a one-fight to three-fight contract with them in 2017.
He has been a part of Team Lakay since 2016, but it was only now that he had the opportunity to go full-time with his MMA training.
Nevertheless, the dream lives on.
"ONE is the goal and being part of the team, sobrang life-changing niya. 'Yung attitude ng mga fighters para bang nakaka-magnet na makikita mo every day gaano sila ka-perservered with this," he told SPIN Life.
Pa-ac, who's under the watch of legendary coach Mark Sangiao, has gotten to establish short and long term goals for his career.
"I want to gain more experience sa cage, join every contest na ibibigay sa akin ni coach and one day, if God will allow, makakuha ng sarili kong belt. That's the dream," he said.
Aside from training with the country's best, Pa-ac also took to heart a piece of advice Sangiao once told him to help him out in his hustle.
"Favorite kong sinabi ni coach, 'Maghirap ka ngayon, ginhawa ka sa future, pero mag-relax ka ngayon, hanggang diyan ka na lang,'" he shared.
Up to now, this mantra fuels him to go after his goals as a fighter. Beyond that, however, he's also working to bring his OFW mom home.
Jomar was only three years old when he moved in with his grandparents and relatives, as his mother needed to work in Hong Kong to be able to provide financial support for his and his siblings' studies.
"May tatlong ate ako, ako ang bunso. Kaya 'yung mom ko maaga umalis para mag-abroad para makapag-aral kami. Now, I think it's the best time to give back to her and her sacrifices," he said.
Despite giving up his current teaching job, academics remains close to his heart. In college, he was part of the wushu varsity team in their school, which earned him a scholarship to help fund his studies. He graduated the University of Cordilleras with a degree in AB English, and right after getting his diploma, applied immediately to become a teacher.
Still, studies are never far from Jomar's life, as he's now in his second year of law school. But juggling both martial arts and books is nothing new for Pa-ac... and he's not giving up either.
Looking back on his journey, Pa-ac said, "I knew I needed to come back. Ito kasi talaga 'yung gusto ko.
"I still have a lot to improve on kaya I'm thankful na may mga gyms na na open dito para makapag-training, mas focused ako ngayon kasi hindi na ako nagtuturo."
Taking inspiration from the other fighters of Team Lakay, not even the pandemic can dampen his eager spirit.
He added: "I'll just continue to asses myself, and double the activity that I do. I'm glad to take guidance from my teammates' presence, attitude and personalities as athletes, I'm ready to take mine."