Quijano: URCC’s Renault Lao is bullish about future-A A +A
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
THE Last Round recently sat down with URCC Cebu’s head honcho Renault Lao as he graciously answered some queries while in the midst of feverish preparations for this Saturday’s MMA extravaganza:
How would you describe the MMA scene in Cebu as compared to say, three years ago?
Three years ago there were very few MMA gyms in Cebu. With the advent of new gyms/clubs we now have a wider talent pool, with fighters coming from all walks of life, from students to professionals, some from affluent families, training hard for that chance to get inside the ring.
The sport is growing exponentially in terms of followers and fan base. And with the relatively young demographic of MMA fans, this will grow even further. When we started, most of the people attending were martial arts practitioners. It’s the other way around now. From a mother and daughter wanting to get the best seats, to a CEO of a major shipping company making sure his group gets first row seats so they could “smell blood”. We were actually quite surprised with the response we got on the first day we aired our advertisement. .
What do you think still needs to be done in order to help the local MMA scene?
There should be more events. On our part we are trying to organize a qualifier event mid-year or hopefully twice a year which would keep our pool of fighters busy.
It’s interesting to note that last year there were a couple of “underground” no-holds-barred fights that were organized. We do not support this as safety is our main concern. By holding more events, we can probably tap those fighters to slug it out in the ring instead of the streets.
As with any growing sport, financing is crucial. We are quite fortunate that COLT 45 has been supporting us throughout these years. But we definitely need backing from more sponsors to be able to come up with more events. There are a couple of interested parties now, and I am hoping these will come through so we can offer more Bakbakan nights to the Cebuanos.
Just recently, it was announced that URCC was part of the ONE FC Network, an alliance of camps and promotions in Asia. How does this benefit URCC?
ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) is a Singapore-based mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion which was founded by former Martial Combat promoter Victor Cui, who interestingly has family in Cebu. It is widely recognized as the biggest MMA promotion in Asia. The URCC takes pride in the fact that it was the organization chosen by ONE FC to represent the Philippines owing to its 10 year existence, the longest running MMA event in Asia.
I have seen UFC live in the States, and ONE FC is not too far behind in terms of show quality and fight cards. And surprisingly, the Manila leg of ONE FC, “Pride of the Nation” held last August 31, 2012 was the most attended, with 16,500 screaming fans.
Cary Bullos has headlined a few URCC Cebu events. Is this part of your thrust to develop a flagship fighter?
Cary has proven that he has evolved into a well-rounded fighter, with improved submissions skills in his arsenal. But he will have to prove this again as he will be up against a prolific striker in Hideo “Death by Tokyo” Morikawa. If things turn-out in his favor, a shot at that URCC Bantamweight belt is possible, which will encourage our Cebu fighters to shine, too, in the national scene.
A fighter that’s been generating some buzz is Vaughn Donaire who will be on the undercard. Do you think he has the potential to be that flagship fighter?
Yes, definitely. Not only is he a good and well-rounded fighter, he also is the complete package, with that no non-sense “bad-ass” look. I must admit, attitude and character is vital to a fighter’s success. This Saturday will be a true test for Vaughn, with Allan Atup stepping in to avenge his team mate Lord Rey Yamit’s loss to Vaughn in URCC Cebu 6. Atup is in fact the instructor of Yamit, so this should be interesting.
LAST ROUND. It’s on Al Solloso of Surigao City who celebrates his birthday this week. Cheers!
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 15, 2013.