Catalan eager to defy age, wants No. 1 strawweight spot

Published December 3, 2020, 5:47 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Photo from ONE Championship

Rene Catalan is turning 42 years old next week but the Filipino fighter is out to prove he has plenty of fuel left in his tank as he enters the Circle after more than a year of hiatus

Just like other mixed martial artists, Catalan is just one of the athletes who struggled amid the coronavirus pandemic. He last saw action in ONE Championship against reigning strawweight king Joshua Pacio on November 8, 2019, tapping out off an arm-triangle choke.

Hungry for a comeback, Catalan is more than happy to face undefeated South African wrestler Bokang Masunyane in ONE: Big Bang at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Dec. 4, replacing a highly-touted flyweight match between Team Lakay’s Danny Kingad and Kairat Akhmetov of Kazakhstan.

“I’m hungry and my goal is to come up to be ranking No. 1,” said Catalan, who holds a 6-3 record since his 2013 professional debut in ONE Championship. “That’s why I will fight strong. I will fight as hungry [as ever] to reach my goal.”

Before facing Pacio, Catalan rode on a six-win match streak from 2016 to 2019 and permanently left a huge mark in the strawweight ranks to earn the No. 3 spot.

The all-Filipino clash against the Team Lakay stalwart at the Mall of Asia Arna in Pasay City made Catalan more inspired and motivated to prove himself once more in the Circle.

Catalan, a wushu multi-medalist in the Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games and Asian Championships, faces a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist and a regional wrestling champion in Bokang, who was engaged in the sports at the early age of seven.

“I saw Bokang and he’s really [a] young lion and he’s really strong. But ONE Championship gave me more than six weeks that’s why we prepare well and that’s why we can bounce back strong to win this fight,” said the founder of Makati-based stable Catalan Fighting System.

Catalan tries to defy age against a way younger opponent in Masunyane, a 26-year-old fighter who has a 7-0 record.

But for Catalan, as far as mixed martial arts is concerned, he’s still a young fighter himself and it’ll take more years before hanging the gloves for good.

“I’m still a beginner in the MMA world. Maybe it [will] take five more years before I retire,” said Catalan. “To stay fit to compete is [a way] to discipline myself. [I want to] focus to my goal, to reach my goal, and to help my team, and to help some of my young athletes who I sponsored.”