Lito Adiwang Details Journey Towards Becoming Team Lakay’s New Blood
Lito Adiwang has exploded onto the ONE Championship stage since earning a contract on the ONE Warrior Series. ‘Thunder Kid’ represents a new generation of athletes to come out of the fabled Team Lakay gym, and he hopes to fill the shoes of former world champions like Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Adiwang to get to where he is now. Before landing with the Philippines’ most famous team, he trained out of four gyms in three different countries.
“I Couldn’t Afford It”
Speaking to ONE Championship, Adiwang said that when he started his journey in combat sports he dreamed of training in wushu at Team Lakay, but the training fee was more than he could afford at the time.
“Ever since I was in grade school, I wanted to join combat sports,” said Adiwang. “Being in Baguio, of course, I wanted to try wushu and join Team Lakay. But with every gym, there’s a certain fee and, at that time, I couldn’t afford it.”
Instead, he opted to try his hand in another combat sport: boxing. This was where his martial arts journey truly began.
“My first discipline as a kid was boxing,” Adiwang said. “I started with ABAP (The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines). One of the coaches there was preaching about religion, and that’s where we kicked it off. We started talking, and then he mentioned he’s a coach, and that’s when he recruited me.”
While he started with boxing, he began to showcase his true talent in martial arts. This eventually led to him being recruited to the Filipino national team to compete in wushu at the Asian Games.
“Around 2009, that’s when I started training wushu and, eventually, I made the national team,” said Adiwang.
After experiencing success at the Asian Games, Adiwang eventually turned pro as a mixed martial artist, while also serving as a coach.
“After representing the [Philippines national] team in the Asian Games, I went back to Baguio, and Tribal Submission recruited me,” Adiwang said. “I became their ‘player-coach,’ and that’s when I debuted in mixed martial arts back in URCC (Universal Reality Combat Championship). That was in 2012.”
“I Was Wasting A Lot Of Opportunities”
Despite achieving his dream of becoming a professional fighter, Adiwang was still dealing with the struggles of getting fights. This was when he decided to move to a new gym in Malaysia.
“Eventually, I got the opportunity to work abroad through different connections. Someone referred me to MuayFit, and I grabbed the opportunity there,” Adiwang says.
The entire time he was in Malaysia, Adiwang rarely got the chance to compete, working more in a coaching capacity.
“Our initial deal was for me to go there and teach while also training to compete as well,” said Adiwang. “Unfortunately, I got stuck coaching.”
Adiwang soon realised that he was wasting his best years by not fighting and decided that he wanted to resume full time competing.
“After three years of teaching, I began thinking that I needed to go back to my real calling – becoming an athlete,” Adiwang said. “I realized that I was wasting a lot of opportunities.”
Grabbing An Opportunity
A student of Adiwang’s named Yoh Fong presented him with a chance to change the course of his career, pushing him to follow his ambimitions of becoming a professional fighter.
“She (Fong) went to the gym, and she asked me if I wanted to fly to Thailand so I can see my options,” said Adiwang. “That’s where I saw my options laid out on the table – ‘Am I happy with just teaching or will I grab the opportunity to focus on training and being an athlete?’”
He jumped on the opportunity and flew to AKA Thailand. Once again, ‘Thunder Kid’ was back in competition.
“She made me choose what gym I wanted to join, so we went around Thailand to decide,” Adiwang said. “Then I joined AKA Thailand because I saw the activity in the gym, there were so many people my size to work with, and I realised that I would have good training there.”
Finally Joining Team Lakay
With his revitalised success in MMA, Adiwang made the decision to return and train in the Philippines. Naturally, his previous team at Tribal Submission MMA was waiting for him. However, the 28 year old was contemplating joining Team Lakay, whose head coach Mark Sangiao he had met previously.
“I talked to my coach at Tribal,” said Adiwang. “He had asked me to run the gym when I got back, so before I got accepted by coach Mark, he wanted me to clear that up.
“Honestly, of course, [Tribal] were disappointed and I understand where they were coming from because they had a lot of plans for me. However, I saw an opportunity for myself to grow as an athlete, and I realised that I have to help myself first before helping others. I hope they understood that.”
“I Am Here Right Now”
Joining Team Lakay turned out to be one of Adiwang’s best decisions, as he started out competing on the ONE Warrior Series. His impressive winning streak led to his signing to ONE Championship, where he has continued to impress.
“I feel really happy and content with my decision. After two or three years, I am here right now,” Adiwang said. “Looking back at my decision, I base it on the results and I think I didn’t make a wrong decision here. I’m very happy to jump over and join them, and I’m fortunate and blessed to learn under coach Mark.”
How will Lito Adiwang fare when he faces Jarred Brooks at ONE on TNT 2?