Rene Catalan Is Driven By The Desire To Help Filipino Martial Arts
Some may say that Rene Catalan is the hottest mixed martial artist in the whole of ONE Championship right now, mainly because of his six-bout winning streak which gravitated him to a title shot against fellow Filipino Joshua Pacio.
Before they meet inside the ONE Circle next week in the main event of ONE: Masters of Fate, Catalan disclosed the reason why he finally accepted the bout.
“I really didn’t like the things that were thrown my way – even if I didn’t say anything about them. I declined a match back in August precisely because I didn’t want to compete against a fellow Filipino, and I was happy that a countryman was holding a World Title. I wanted to support my fellow countryman,” revealed Catalan to ONE Championship.
The founder of the Catalan Fighting System (CFS) detailed how a statement from the reigning ONE Strawweight champion fired him up to finally agree to a match with him, including the comments from fans of the famed Philippine gym.
“However, Pacio posted something saying that he could finish me in less than 15 minutes. I don’t know who came out with it, but when I was interviewed about my thoughts on that statement, I just said that we can wait and see if he can back it up.”
“Later on, he posted something saying he never said anything of that sort, which led to me being bashed by [Team Lakay’s] supporters. I don’t have hoards of fans like Team Lakay does, I just have a handful who I know support my endeavors. Eventually, fans were too much, and even Cordilleran mixed martial arts groups joined in on the bashing,” said Rene.
As a former Wushu practitioner himself, Catalan recalled how they competed against the same Igorot team in national competitions which he aspire to emulate with his own team.
“We have had an unspoken rivalry with Team Lakay for more than a decade just because they are the top team in the country. We actually look up to them, because we aspire to reach the heights that they have. We understand that before they reached their place in Philippine martial arts, they sacrificed a lot of time away from their families to train, investments to fund their own training, and even their own bodies as they fought through everyone trying to succeed in this world.”
Even if Team Lakay has accomplished so much things in combat sports, especially under the ONE banner, Rene doesn’t seem to be intimated. Instead, he uses it as a motivation to pursue their goals as a team.
“I believe that they live by the values of martial arts, and have persevered through all adversity because of it. I always tell my athletes that we shouldn’t be envious of them or anyone, and instead focus on the challenges they faced and how they dealt with it. In trying to reach the same goals as them, we will have to tread the same path and potentially, the same challenges, so we should prepare ourselves.”
The former Philippine national athlete pounded on the idea that his honour and his team’s honour are being pierced by the things that were said against them, which was the last stick to be broken.
“While I admire their team, the trigger to finally make this happen came from their supporters, who have continuously hurled negative comments at me and my team. At some point, I needed to defend my honour and the honour of my team.”
Catalan though was all respect for the Baguio-based team, given the sacrifices they made to achieve their current status and he believes that Team Lakay earned it very well.
“They are the top team and are almost synonymous with Philippine mixed martial arts – their name comes to mind first when people talk about martial arts here. Some people even think that I am part of Team Lakay just because I am a Filipino who practices martial arts,” revealed Catalan.
“They’ve been in existence for decades, and they deserve to be where they are now. If we have more years under our belts, I am hoping to achieve what they have at this point, at least,” he added.
More than competing at the highest level possible, Rene Catalan wants to help his fellow Filipino athletes who are in need of support, providing them the proper platform and exposure.
“I hope we become recognised as one of the top teams so that we can provide more opportunities for aspiring athletes, I want to use that influence of being the top team in the country to improve martial arts in the Philippines. My goal is really to help the local athletes. It’s the reason why I didn’t go back to Canada when I had the chance and declined offers from other countries.”
“I had already established CFS here, and I just needed to build it up so that we can provide an avenue for struggling athletes who may not have enough financial capabilities to train and support their families.”
Catalan then gazed his sight on the upcoming match with Joshua Pacio saying that he is grateful for the opportunity.
“As a Filipino, I feel that it is an important honour to be in this spot. I am thankful to be part of history, headlining an event where the World Title is on the line against two of the standouts in our division,” a glad Rene stated. “I’m happy, honoured, and thankful that I am given this opportunity to compete on such a big stage and be at the front and centre of all of it”
Known for his unraveling support for local athletes, the CFS mentor will not be fully happy if he gets away with the championship after the bout, because that victory would be at the expense of a fellow countryman.
“My goal is to win, not for my own happiness, but to give the World Title the honour that it deserves. Of course, I will be happy if I win, but not as happy as I would imagine, as it would mean taking the World Title from a fellow Filipino.”
But if that triumph comes in his favor, Rene would accept it with open arms and realize his combat sports dream of being a world champion.
“As a fighter, this gives validation to the hard work I have put into my craft. Any athlete dreams about getting this opportunity, and now I am here. This is important to me because I want to one day go around the country with the World Title and share how I achieved my goal of winning it, and how God helped me through my journey. I want to share that one has to go through tremendous challenges to reach incredible heights.”
Speaking of the fight, Catalan shared how he is preparing for the fight with the youthful title holder.
“I think his scrambling is one of the things I have to watch out for, they know me as a wushu artist, so I think one of the things they could try against me is to pressure me because they know I am not that young. I think he’s well-trained in execution, and he won’t be reckless.”
“I am preparing for anything they might throw at me. I’m training on the ground and honing my striking, and I think by being prepared against their possible strategies, I will be able to neutralize him.”
Also the veteran practitioner expressed his readiness to fend off the various offensive charge he’ll receive from the defending champion.
“I’m not worried about his striking or even his ground game. I know their capabilities on both aspects of the game, and even if their training, conditioning, and scrambles may be top-notch, I think I can handle them.”
Finally Catalan gave out his warning about his game plan in exploiting the holes in Pacio’s game, which will be the key in claiming the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
“We know that [Yosuke] Saruta is a good grappler, and I think that’s why he struggled a bit against him. For me, I can’t just replicate what he did because first, it’s a bit of a short notice for me, and second, I don’t think I’m on Saruta’s level of grappling.”
“However, there are moves that his past opponents did that I found to be effective, which I am planning to mix in with my arsenal.”
Rene Catalan challenged Joshua Pacio for the ONE Strawweight title at ONE: Masters Of Fate, on November 8th at the Mall Of Asia Arena, in Manila, Philippines.