BELIEVING that Filipinos have the potential to excel in the Burmese martial art of Lethwei, the World Lethwei Championship (WLC) is looking to feature fighters from the Philippines beginning next year, part of the group’s push to expand its operations and help grow the sport.
One of the fastest-rising combat sports in the world, Lethwei originated from Myanmar where competitors can showcase their full offensive arsenal, including head-butts, punches, elbows, knees, kicks, clinching, sweeps, and throws.
While it has been around for a long time now, Lethwei has been brought to the fore of late, helped by WLC, whose thrust is anchored on providing live entertainment combined with historic traditions.
Since setting up shop in 2017, Yangon-based WLC has held almost 20 sold-out events across Myanmar, and has attracted top martial artists from different parts of the world, including Dave Leduc from Canada and Filipino-Australian sensation Michael Badato.
Now the promotion is angling to stretch the sport’s reach to more areas and people, one of which is the Philippines.
“The Philippines is a hotbed for combat sports and the fans are some of the most passionate in the world. Filipino combat sports athletes have all the skills to translate well into Lethwei, and I truly believe that there could be a Filipino world champion in Lethwei in the near future,” said Gerald Ng, WLC chief executive officer, in a statement.
The group has already named at least four strikers right now who could leave their mark in the sport, namely: Jean Claude Saclag, Ariel Lee Lampacan, Ryan Jakiri and Fritz Biagtan.
Mr. Saclag, 26, part of noted combat sports group Team Lakay of Baguio City, is a wushu practitioner, who won a silver medal in the 2014 Asian Games and turned heads and won gold in last year’s Southeast Asian Games here in kickboxing.
He has also parlayed his skills in ONE Championship.
Another SEA Games gold medallist in muay thai is Mr. Lampacan, also of Team Lakay. He has been making a name for himself in martial arts since picking it up at the age of 14, winning medals after medals en route to being a member of the national team.
Apart from his remarkable standing in muay thai, Mr. Lampacan also owns an impressive mixed martial arts record of 4-1 as part of the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC).
Known by the moniker “Filipino Assassin,” Mr. Jakiri, meanwhile, is a six-time Philippine national muay thai champion.
He made an appearance in ONE Super Series in October 2018 and won a silver-medal finish in the 2019 SEA Games.
Mr. Biagtan, 25, for his part, is a former URCC strawweight champion, who also fought in Rizin and is a noted boxer.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, WLC is staying resilient, with its last event happening in September. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo