Robin Catalan may not have known it as a child, but he was destined to become a mixed martial artist.
The man known as “The Ilonggo” comes from a family full of wushu fighters, including older brothers and fellow ONE Championship talents Rene, Ruel, and Rabin, so it was only a matter of time before he would follow their lead.
“Watching my brothers fight made me fall in love with martial arts training,” he says. “I use [the pressure that comes with training with them] to challenge myself, as I strive to achieve what they have already accomplished.”
That served as his initial motivation to get involved in the martial arts, but Catalan did not dismiss other athletics during his childhood. In fact, he participated in a variety of different physical activities, including basketball and track, but there was just something about martial arts that made sense to him.
“The main difference for me is that the martial arts skills I have learned will stay with me for life,” he says. “These are practical skills that I can use and apply in real life.”
Catalan has participated in boxing, wushu, and Muay Thai competition, and he found a tremendous amount of success in the latter when he claimed the IFMA World Muay Thai Championship. A move into MMA was the next logical step.
In 2012, he made his professional debut, scoring a TKO at a local show. About four years later, he made his way to ONE, and has done so all while training alongside his older brothers at their Catalan Fighting System gym in Makati.
Not only has this provided the 26-year-old with an opportunity to train alongside his older brothers, but it has allowed them to further nurture their relationship as siblings.
“It is important, because training along with family members gives us a chance to bond,” Robin explains. “It is also very helpful since they help correct my mistakes.”
That family vibe has also set the tone for the entire business, as other gym members feel like relatives, too.
“Our team is very family-oriented, and we have a strong bond between each one of us,” he continues. “We are all working together to achieve the same goal.”
Catalan’s immediate goal is on Friday Night, 21 April, when he meets promotional newcomer Jeremy Miado at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, which airs live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila. “The Ilonggo” has not competed in over a year due to a few nagging injuries, so he is extra motivated to return in impressive fashion.
While he had those nagging injuries, he leaned on his friends and family for support. It is their support, and their shared passion for the martial arts, which has been the difference in Catalan’s life.
“I have learned the importance of discipline, of how to respect others,” Catalan says. “I have also learned to never forget where I have come from.”