Folayang, Belingon, Banario leave Team Lakay

THREE pillars of the dreaded Team Lakay have shockingly left the gym in search of growth in their MMA careers.

Former world champions Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Honorio, three of the most prominent names in Philippine MMA (mixed martial arts), announced their departure from Team Lakay on social media.

The 39-year-old Folayang, the original poster boy of Philippine MMA, first announced that he amicably parted ways with his long-time trainer Mark Sangiao after 16 successful years.

“But as the oft saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Sadly, and with a heavy heart, my journey with Team Lakay has reached its final stretch. I believe there are still a few things I must accomplish in what remains in my active years as an athlete. The profession I have chosen requires me to learn, evolve and grow. In order for me to achieve this, I must step out of my comfort zone and discover new ways to foster my development as a martial artist,” wrote Folayang on his official Facebook page on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Folayang was once one of the best lightweights in Asia. Now in the twilight of his career, apparently he hopes to rejuvenate his career in a different environment.

Folayang, who has been with ONE Championship since its inaugural event in 2012, is the former ONE lightweight champion. He won the belt with a shocking third-round stoppage of Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki in 2016. Folayang is on a five-fight losing streak and has an MMA record of 22-13.

The following day, Belingon said his goodbyes to Team Lakay, which was followed an hour later by Banario on their respective Facebook pages.

“I would like to make a public statement that I’m no longer with Team Lakay,” wrote Belingon. “I had a farewell talk with coach Mark Sangiao and we ended on a good note. Coach, thank you for everything and for understanding my need for growth.

With whole sincerity, I wish you all the best in life. Leaving the team makes me emotional because it has been my home for the last 16 years. But, at the same time, I look forward to what lies ahead. Fresh start. My decision to leave the team comes only from my own personal desire to cultivate my skills. Since I’m STILL an active ONE Championship athlete.”

“I am more than thankful for every member of Team Lakay whom I trained with every day, especially our coach, Mark Sangiao, who took me under his wing as one of his proteges in the early days, when the mixed martial arts community was still in its baby steps. Team Lakay more than gave me my life. It was everything. The trademark red shorts that we all love to compete in, that we all proudly fought for inside the Circle, will always be one of the best experiences I have in this lifetime” wrote Banario.

“The path I am about to take is uncertain. But I know in my heart that it will pay off since I will be bringing the pride, the joy, and the training imbibed in me by Team Lakay wherever I go. I’m excited for the opportunities that have opened up.”

The 35-year-old Belingon is a former ONE bantamweight champion. He won the belt with a split-decision win over Bibiano Fernandes in 2018. Belingon lost his last five contests and has a 20-10 MMA record.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Banario is considered the first ever Filipino home-grown talent to become an MMA world champion in a major organization. He captured the inaugural ONE featherweight belt after beating fellow Filipino Eric Kelly with a fourth-round stoppage due to an eye injury in 2013.

Since then, Banario has had a rollercoaster career. He’s coming off a split-decision win over Shanon Wiratchai in 2020.

Banario is 15-10 in MMA.

There is no information yet on where or what gym Folayang, Banario and Belingon will be going. (EKA)