STEPHEN "The Sniper" Loman was already doing well despite being in another promotion away from his Team Lakay stablemates.
The 29-year-old has already carved a solid resume for himself in the Middle East and even won the Brave CF Bantamweight Championship.
Yet the Filipino fighter couldn't help but wonder how would he fare if he had gone elsewhere.
"Feel ko lang na that time, kulang sa akin yung media kasi ibang promotion nga," he admitted. "But I'm glad that as I go along the way, di ako nawalan ng direction. Stick pa rin ako sa ginagawa ko, training, interviews. Hindi ako nagdalawang isip, sa mga laban, ginagawa ko yung hard ko."
Loman wasn't alone in having those thoughts.
So did his coach Mark Sangiao.
"Napagisipan ko nung time na nasa Brave siya, na this athlete deserves a bigger stage like One Championship," he said.
And when Loman's contract was ending in 2020, the athlete and the trainer sat down and discussed the possibilities still in store for him in the future.
"Nung natapos yung contract niya, nag-usap kami kung anong gusto niya sa career niya," shared Sangiao. "Sabi ko na dito, proven na at lumaki tayo. From the very start ng One Championship, nandito tayo at nakita natin kung paano nila inaalagaan ang atleta natin.
Loman was convinced.
"Sabi ni coach Mark at ng teammates ko na pag lilipat ako, gaganda ang career ko. Kaya na-engganyo din ako sa new challenge ng pagsali sa One," he said. "One Championship is global. Marami tayong fans dito kaya ngayon, I'm happy na nakasama ko ang teammates ko being a part of this at excited ako na ipakita yung talent ko sa mga taga-panood natin."
The work, however, is just starting.
Loman (13-2) faces John Lineker (33-9), the No. 1-ranked contender in the bantamweight division, as they face off at One on TNT 3 on April 21.
It's a tough fight, to be honest, but the Benguet native is just preparing his best to make a good impression in his first fight under the ONE umbrella.
"Positive lang ako at pinaghahandaan ko talaga yung training namin. Yung gagawin ko na gameplan, pine-perfect ko at sana ma-execute din sa laban," he said.
Sangiao is also doing his best to fasttrack Loman's adjustment in this new venture.
"Siguro hindi siya sanay sa pressure in terms of ganitong exposure at kita ko na doon siya maga-adjust. Si Stephen kasi, masyadong sniper, tahimik din. At yun ang isang paga-adjustan niya, yung preparation sa mas malaking stage," he said.
But Loman promises no letups even as he starts a new chapter in his career, driven to prove that he truly should be considered as one of the top bantamweights in MMA.
"Expect nila yung explosive fight against John Lineker and we'll have a big fight," he said.