THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has effectively limited opportunities for combat sports athletes to showcase what they can do, but Baguio-based Team Lakay is staying the course, being patient as it awaits the return of events on a wider scale.

The noted mixed martial arts group, which at least has a dozen of its athletes playing in ONE Championship, has seen chances to compete narrowed for the time being with different promotions having to limit their events in accordance with various restrictions related to the pandemic.

It has not been easy, Team Lakay coach and founder Mark Sangiao said, but collectively they are managing, anchored on their passion for what they are doing.

“The current situation with the pandemic is really tough,” said Mr. Sangiao in a recent press briefing with local sports journalists.

“As a coach, I always motivate them. I always tell them to continue to be passionate… Whether you have a fight or not, you have to continue training. Good thing, they are listening and following my advice and they continue to train,” he added.

Since the pandemic hit last year, only a handful of Team Lakay fighters have seen action or had more than one fight, mostly in ONE Championship.

These include reigning ONE world strawweight champion Joshua Pacio, former champs Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Geje Eustaquio, young veterans Lito Adiwang and Jeremy Pacatiw and female fighter Jenelyn Olsim.

Mr. Sangiao said they completely understand the situation and are still thankful for the opportunities given to them amid the prevailing conditions, but he also said he feels for their fighters.

“I was also an athlete once and I know they are raring to see action. And they ask me when they can fight. So I share my experiences, try to motivate them so they will understand,” he said.

The Team Lakay head, however, went on to say they are confident that things will eventually improve and the likes of Honorio Banario, Danny Kingad, Edward Kelly, Stephen Loman and new ONE signee Jhanlo Sangiao will get to see action on a regular basis.

“Just be patient and continue working, eventually it will come,” Mr. Sangiao said. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo