MIXED martial arts has made serious gains in its bid to eat up on boxing's popularity, but one thing missing is a marquee fighter like a Manny Pacquiao that could serve as the face of the sport's local version.
If Alvin Aguilar will have his way, that should change soon.
“My goal is that the next Manny Pacquiao comes from MMA,” the Universal Reality Combat Championship founder said on Tuesday in a teaser for the URCC’s anniversary event on December 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Aguilar dared to dream when he put up the Philippines’ first mixed martial arts outfit in 2002. A decade later, as URCC holds its 22nd show fittingly entitled 'Dekada,' the outfit presents two top Filipino athletes who are looking to become Pacquiao’s counterparts in MMA.
Eric 'The Natural' Kelly and Eduard 'Landslide' Folayang, who are coming off rousing victories in the One Fighting Championship last August, see action for the country’s premier MMA organization this time.
Kelly had already made a great impression on American MMA legend Jens Pulver, whom the Filipino beat via a second-round stoppage in their ONE FC fight. Pulver went as far as say that Kelly “might be the Manny Pacquiao of MMA."
That may be a stretch but the 30-year-old Kelly will try to make his compatriots proud when he puts his undefeated eight-fight streak on the line against Brad Terrey of Phuket Top Team in a featherweight match.
Folayang, a former Southeast Asian games gold medalist in wushu, also hopes to give the expected partisan crowd its money’s worth when he takes on Lowens Tynanes in the main event.
Aguilar assured everyone that the opponents Folayang and Kelly are facing are world-class.
“People may think we brought in opponents who can easily be beaten because this is our 10th anniversary, but these are the most dangerous opponents our guys will be fighting,” he said.
Aguilar noted the fight between Janel Lanusa and Rami Crisostomo is a must-see.
Seven other fights are featured in the anniversary event, with Onyok Transmonte taking on Hideo Morikawa in the bantamweight division, Jessi Raffols facing Keiff Mangusan, Sugar Ray Estrada colliding with Caloy Baduria, Red Romero locking horns with Sulpiano Laurio, Spartan Sumogat squaring off against Alvin Ramirez, and Roy Doliguez facing Dennis Salazar.
“Wala tayong ‘decision’ fighters. Everybody here goes for the finish,” Aguilar guaranteed.