CRISANTO Pitpitunge temporarily set aside his passion for mixed martial arts to pursue his dream of becoming a policeman.
Now set for his MMA return, the 26-year-old pride of Baguio hopes his fighting skills haven’t abandoned him as he stakes his Pacific X-Treme Combat bantamweight title against Michinori Tanaka on Saturday in PXC 37 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Pitpitunge last fought in July when he scored a first-round knockout victory over Justin Cruz in PXC 31, before the criminology graduate out of University of the Cordilleras underwent a six-month training with the Philippine National Police at the Teachers’ Camp in Baguio.
Although he admitted he had to make adjustments when he returned to MMA training last January, Pitpitunge stressed his MMA skills may be rusty but are still there.
“Hindi naman,” Pitpitunge said during the press launch of the event on Wednesday. "Nung bumalik ako sa gym, mahirap, pero parang isang itak lang na kailangan hasain. At passion ko talaga ‘to (MMA).”
Pitpitunge, sporting a 4-1 win-loss card and unbeaten in his last four fights, even believes his police training, particularly the cardiovascular exercises, will serve him well in his title defense.
“Oo kasi every day in the morning and afternoon nagjo-jogging kami,” said the 5-foot-6, 135-pound champion, known as “The Slugger.”
Ranked as PO1 in the police force and stationed in Baguio, Pitpitunge said he has performed cop duties, even taking part in criminal arrests in some situations.
“Marami na (akong nahuli) pero hindi yung mga elite na criminals. Mga pasaway lang,” said Pitpitunge, who said his most high-profile catch was arresting a member of the communist group New People’s Army.
Pitpitunge, though, will be in a totally different scenario on Saturday when he faces a Japanese foe in the main event of the eight-fight card.
Pitpitunge tries to be the first man to defeat Tanaka, the 22-year-old submission specialist who is on seven-fight winning streak.
Tanaka, who just saw action last March when he forced Caleb Vallotton to submit via a triangle choke in PXC 36, is clearly so serious to protect his streak that he embarked on a 20-day US training camp with UFC bantamweight campaigner Urijah Faber in California recently.