When Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan (6-2) began his tenure with ONE Championship, things did not exactly go his way. He suffered a tough loss, and battled an even tougher injury soon thereafter.
However, ever since the 28-year-old returned to action last April, things have turned around. He earned his first promotional win, remained injury free, and is looking forward to building his career on Asia’s grandest stage.
On Friday, 18 August, Catalan will have the chance to build upon his momentum when he meets Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (7-2) at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, live from the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Amnuaysirichoke is a master of the “art of eight limbs". He has competed in over 300 Muay Thai bouts, captured the Lumpinee World Championships on three occasions, and flawlessly transitioned into the cage, where he claimed the inaugural ONE Strawweight World Championship.
“I know he is much more experienced than me, and I look up to that,” Catalan says. “I also admire his striking skills. It is one of the things we are cautious about.”
Catalan has always called himself a striker, but this time he knows he does not have the same pedigree as his opponent. The Iloilo City, Philippines resident does have some promising skills in the standup department, however, as he is a former IFMA World Muay Thai Champion and an accomplished wushu competitor. That should make for an enticing match-up.
Though he experienced success in Muay Thai and wushu, “The Ilonggo” made the switch to cage competition in 2012. The success continued, as he immediately won five of his first six contests.
With decisive victories, ONE Championship came calling, and “The Ilonggo” made his promotional debut against BJJ black belt Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS in March 2016. Silva was the victor in that match, despite being rocked in the first few minutes. He was able to secure a takedown, and force Catalan to tap to an arm-triangle choke with just 35 seconds left in the very first round.
A knee injury kept Catalan sidelined following that defeat, however, forcing him to turn down bouts with top contenders. And while he recovered from the original injury, he acquired a new one that kept him on the shelf.
“I got injured again in October,” he explains. “My ribs were fractured while sparring, and caused me to miss three more months of training.”
Finally, he resumed his career this past April against Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY. That was his chance to get back to winning ways.
“It was a bit of a challenge for me, because I was spent in the first round,” he explains. “I hesitated to go toe-to-toe with his striking, because I was short of breath.”
Being out of action so long had put a strain on Catalan’s gas tank, but he decided to turn to his wrestling, and earned a split-decision victory by controlling Miado on the mat for the remainder of the match. In victory, he also learned. “I plan to improve my jiu-jitsu and stamina, because that is the most important thing in a match.”
Amnuaysirichoke may bear witness to Catalan’s continued growth at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS. The Filipino will have to use all the weapons in his arsenal in order to gain victory over a living legend like Amnuaysirichoke, especially with the former champ looking to regain control at the top of the ranks.
The man known as “Kru Rong” at Evolve MMA made the move from Muay Thai to the cage in January 2014 and won his first six tilts, including the title bout for the strawweight championship.
In May 2016, he fell short against Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, and followed up with a split decision loss to Joshua Pacio this past March. However, he was able to snap that two-bout losing skid with an impressive knockout of Indonesian prospect Adrian Matheis in May.
Catalan has even more fire beneath him, however, as Amnuaysirichoke knocked out his older brother, Rene, in December 2014. “It is one of my goals to get back a win for him (Rene),” he states. “I will play to my strengths, and I will even go head-to-head with his strengths. If I can submit him, it will be a satisfying win for me, for sure.
Also, speaking of his brother, Rene will be featured on the same card, too. He will open the main card for ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS as he clashes against Chinese prospect Bu Huo You Ga. Together, the two Catalans could make it a momentous night.
“We have the same aim of winning a world championship,” Catalan says. “So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”