When in Manila and you’re acquainted with the local mixed martial arts scene, Alvin Aguilar and Willy Carlos are two of the most recognized personalities outside the square ring. They are the Dana White and Joe Silva of the country’s top MMA promotion, the Universal Reality Combat Championship. I sat down and chatted with them about the year that was, the year to come, URCC’s tie-ups with Singapore-based OneFC and potentially The Ultimate Fighter Philippines.
Background Story: A BJ Penn(less) BJJ Seminar
I was up and about earlier than usual last December 1, 2011. Packing my knapsack with training clothes, towels, a gallon of water, my camera, IC recorder, and – sealed in a separate container – a pair of official UFC fight gloves and my trusty metallic silver permanent marker, I was fixated on meeting BJ Penn as he was scheduled to conduct a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminar at BAMF MMA Center that evening.
- Bumming a photo of BJ Penn’s open workout at SM Mall of Asia the day prior from BloodyElbow.com‘s Anton Tabuena. (Epic fail, sponsoring network!)
No one deserves the namesake “The Prodigy” more than BJ Penn. He earned his black belt in BJJ after only three years of training, and weeks later he won the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship – the first non-Brazilian to achieve this feat. “The Prodigy” was a legend in BJJ before he ever stepped into the Octagon.
In the UFC, he is one of only two UFC fighters (the other being UFC hall-of-famer Randy Couture) to have won the championship in two weight classes. As he shuffled between the UFC and other MMA promotions, he held notable victories over Matt Hughes, Takanori Gomi, Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver, Sean Sherk, Diego Sanchez, among others. He did not shy away from larger, heavier opponents as he fought Rodrigo Gracie in a middleweight match, and more ludicrously a heavyweight Lyoto Machida in an openweight bout.
I don’t usually go to events way ahead of time. But since BJ Penn was conducting this seminar, I made an exception. Surviving a three-hour commute, I reached BAMF at around 6 PM – more than an hour early for the event and the first to arrive among the select audience. Then, upon reaching the front desk of the center, I was informed that the seminar had been cancelled. You can’t believe the string of curse words that swept my mind! Imagine a thread of random symbols running across the monitor of a computer gone bonkers, and you get the picture.
Filipino MMA Goes Worldwide
The seminar was co-sponsored by the URCC, and matchmaker Willy Carlos was already at the venue before the other guests started to trickle in. He was very game to answer some questions regarding the promotion. The guys at BAMF also had the sense to give a free MMA training care of BJJ purple belt Myron Mangubat in lieu of the cancelled event. Halfway through the training, Alvin Aguilar came and watched while discussing matters with Willy Carlos. I spoke with him after the training, my oxygen tank half-empty for doing groundwork after a two-month hiatus in training (only one way to describe my Jiu-Jitsu that night: rusty).
URCC matchmaker Willy Carlos is psyched to introduce his new fighters come 2012!
2011 was a big year for URCC. What were the highlights of the year for you and the URCC bosses?
WC: For the year, we had a lot of dark horses and up-and-comers. Aside from the champions – Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, etc. – we have fighters coming up the ranks. We have Red Romero and his upset victory over Jessie Rafols; and then Ricardo Sapno who beat Red Romero in the Black Tie Brawl [the latter fighting twice in two weeks’ time]. We also have Alvin Ramirez. He’s still young, but he’ll reach his potential two to three years from now. You can see his conditioning and killer instinct.
We’re also excited about our fighters in the international arena. We’re banking on Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon, Eric Kelly, and Jessie Rafols. Sooner or later, we’ll add to this roster, including Froilan Sarenas and Red Romero.
A lot of the URCC champions are doing very well in the international arena. I understand that we have an exclusive tie-up with OneFC. What do we get in return for allowing our fighters to join OneFC?
AA: Our fighters get exposure all around Asia. [OneFC] recently signed with Dream. They get to test their skills against the best in Asia, and so far we’ve come out on top. We’ve sent everybody there, and we’ve only had one loss – a close fight at that. I can’t wait for our fighters to get more exposure in OneFC. Eventually after OneFC, I want them to be known across America and Europe.
The URCC will be bringing fighters abroad as it promotes itself internationally as well.
Some sources mention the URCC as a potential talent pool for TUF Philippines. Any news on the potential tie-up?
AA: The URCC has the best fighters in the country, so it would only be logical for URCC fighters to be in TUF Philippines. The thing is, TUF has to guarantee that our fighters get to the UFC. It can’t be just another program wherein [fighters] win and then that’s that. We want to make sure that we take care of our Filipino fighters.
In terms of the fighters, we have a lot of fighters who are established here and internationally [in OneFC] like Eduard Folayang who can’t join TUF because he’ll beat everybody. So we’ll have to put in fighters who are not known internationally but have the potential to be in the UFC.
I always have to protect my fighters and make sure that they get to the pinnacle of MMA. If TUF provides a clear career track, then we’re all for it.
Which fighters should we look out for in the coming year?
WC:There are a lot of great fighters that I discovered this year who will be fighting in 2012. I really found a lot of good ones especially in the Tribal Grassroots Amateur MMA try-outs. There’s Rico Rubas who was unfortunately injured during his match; and then the amateur fighters from Team Lakay (Baguio). I’m also excited by the likes of Keiff Mangusan and Adam Cacay.
What can Filipino MMA fans look forward to in 2012?
WC: Better fights, better match-ups – from me, of course! There will be new events also. Expect satellite events similar to UFC Fight Nights that will take place in the provinces.
URCC king pin Alvin Aguilar knows what he wants for his fighters and the promotion.
Seems like URCC big boss Alvin Aguilar and match wizard Willy Carlos have set their sights on world MMA domination! I can’t wait to get my grimy hands on URCC’s 2012 list of events! I also applaud Alvin Aguilar for having the cajones (and a BJJ black belt to back it up) to make sure that our fighters benefit from the deals URCC makes with other promotions here and the world over.
Check out Deftac and BAMF MMA Center
According to Willy Carlos, “Everybody thinks MMA is for them, but MMA is not for everybody.” Getting into MMA entails a lot of hard work, discipline, and a proper mindset to boot. People unfamiliar with the sport question why I love MMA. To them, it’s simply mindless violence. They don’t understand that a true mixed martial artist isn’t there to hurt, maim, or kill the other person, but in sport display the art of combat through skill and sportsmanship.
As a student of BJJ, I’ve had my share of sparring with guys who want nothing more than to choke or rip someone’s appendage out (usually these are the newbies who are gigil after watching all those UFC and URCC fights)! Alvin Aguilar once tweeted, “Tapping [the act of submitting] is your way of telling the other person, ‘Nice move!’” I believe that this mindset is very quintessential for all MMA fighters and practitioners.
BAMF is the main gym Deftac Pilipinas. They have produced the most number of MMA and BJJ champions in the country. URCC champions Richard Lasprilla, Allan Co, Fritz Rodriguez, Ali Khatibi, Marcus Valda, and Louie Sangalang are some of the notable fighters that the team has produced. If you prefer to focus on a specific martial art (like me), BAMF has several decorated BJJ purple belts like Andrew Laxa and Myron Mangubat as instructors; while SEA Games competitor Marcus Valda leads the helm in wrestling.
I had a good half hour to roam around BAMF. The bags area for boxing and Muay Thai has everything you can ask for.
The regulation-size wrestling mat, complete with throwing dummies, has more than enough space for BJJ and wrestling training.
And the holy grail of all training surfaces: the actual URCC ring – the same ring every young man dreams of stepping into – is ready for you to spar on.
Whether you aspire fight or just want to have an active, healthy lifestyle, when in Manila and you’re looking for a gym, give the guys at BAMF a call, have a free tour, and available yourself of one-month free trial for all their programs.
BAMF Mixed Martial Arts Center
Dona Irenea St. Sucat Rd. Ireneville Subd. Paranaque City
You can also inquire about other Deftac gyms across the Metro and other parts of the country.