LIKE PBA players harboring the NBA dream, Filipino mixed martial artists long for the day they step up in the sport’s biggest stage - the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
And without blinking, Pacific X-Treme Combat CEO EJ Calvo believes Mark Striegl has the biggest chance among local fighters to achieve the milestone and follow in the footsteps of US-raised Mark Muñoz and Brandon Vera.
“He’s arguably the best MMA fighter in the Philippines today,” Calvo said on Tuesday in the PSA Forum of the promising Filipino-American fighter, who is unbeaten in 12 bouts, with 10 victories coming via submission.
Striegl tries to live up to the hype as he battles Jang Yong Kim of Korea for the featherweight championship on PXC 39 this Saturday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig.
The 25-year-old Fil-Am stakes his immaculate record against a dangerous Korean foe in his first-ever 145-pound division title shot that could be a huge step toward making the jump to the UFC.
“I think he has already accomplished superstar status with his undefeated record, but this is his first chance to win a title,” Calvo said.
The PXC has proven to be a breeding ground of talent in the Asia-Pacific, having already produced two fighters in Jon Tuck and Lim Hyun Gyu who have gone on to the UFC.
“It would be like the PBA sending basketball players consistently to the NBA. It hasn’t happened. That is not the case with PXC,” Calvo said in putting things into perspective in the MMA, considered the world’s fastest-growing sport.
“It’s only a matter of time before a Filipino fighter represents the Philippines in the UFC, the biggest stage of mixed martial arts.”
Striegl is well aware this could be his time, but is definitely not looking past his Korean opponent, whose 6-5 win-loss record, according to Calvo, “doesn’t represent how good he really is."
“In this sport, you have to stick to one fight at a time. I’m not looking past Kim. He’s a dangerous, well-rounded fighter,” Striegl said of Jang, who beat Hawaiian Nate Thorell in his last bout.
“And getting my first shot at the title is definitely an extra motivation,” added the Baguio-based Striegl, who has trained for three months – injury-free - for this championship bout.