PACIFIC X-Treme Combat has proven that it can be a rich breeding ground for United Fighting Championship aspirants after John Tuck made a successful UFC debut last week in Macau.
One of the first PXC products to make it to the big league, Tuck defeated Chinese Zhang Tiequan via unanimous decision last November 10 in UFC: Macao in Cotai Strip, Macau. Tuck is a Guamanian who has a family living in the Philippines and believes he has Filipino blood “somewhere in the bloodline because my middle name’s Cruz.”
And PXC, one of Asia’s top mixed martial arts outfits, is confident the time will come when it can send full-blooded Filipinos to the big stage.
“I’m very optimistic that homegrown Filipinos can reach the top of the MMA world,” PXC general manager EJ Calvo said on Thursday after the official press conference for PXC 34 to be held on Saturday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. “It could be in a year.”
Calvo said Pinoys can penetrate the UFC’s 125-pound division, where Ale 'The Young Gun' Cali and Erwin Tagle, who collide in main event of PXC 34, fight in.
“The key is the flyweight division,” Calvo said. “You can also see the most talent in Asia in the 135- to 145-pound class.”
Filipino-American Mark Striegl, who will take on Harris Sarmiento in the co-main event bout on Saturday night, is one of those fighting in the 145-pound division and so far has not disappointed, having an unbeaten record of 11 victories.
Striegl showed what he was all about after he forced Robert Wustigg into a quick first-round submission with an Americana lock in the PXC 33 at the Ynares Sports Arena last September in a bout that impressed guest referee and prominent UFC figure Big John McCarthy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Mark Striegl fighting in the UFC within a year,” McCarthy was later quoted as saying.
The UFC’s first staging in Asia last week only convinced Calvo that Asians will have a chance.
“The UFC is making big moves in Asia and as it grows in popularity in the region, the countries here need to be represented,” he said.
He would not even mind if he continues losing his fighters to the world’s No. 1 MMA organization.
“We’re more than proud of them,” Calvo said. “As they get picked up, many talented fighters are there to replace them. It’s just going to be a rotation.”
Now reaping the fruits of his labor, Tuck is just thankful for the opportunity the PXC gave him.
“It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and trusting a great organization to help me showcase my skills,” he said.
“The PXC made me who I am today and I’m thankful that they helped me launch my career in the UFC,” added Tuck, who believes Pinoys have a chance to follow his footsteps and those of Mark Muñoz and Brandon Vera.
“The Philippines has great fighters. There’s a lot of hope. And I believe through experience, there’s a high chance. It just comes from within. If they feel in their heart that it’s what they want to do, it’ll be there for sure.”
Striegl echoed Tuck’s sentiment.
“The Philippine culture’s so rich in combat sports, especially boxing. It’s just a matter of time. The ground game and grappling are something that still needs a little bit of work, but a lot of guys are already making strides.”
Striegl, whose mom is from Oriental Mindoro, is definitely one of them.
“I’d love to go to the UFC. Right now I’m just taking it one fight at a time, doing my best with the PXC, focusing myself on this fight against Sarmiento, but yeah, in the future, I hope,” Striegl said.