With 2018 bringing in new opportunities for local talents, homegrown Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Rene “The Challenger” Catalan wants a sweet win for the Philippines as he fights China’s Peng Xue Wen in a three-round strawweight undercard match of ONE: Kings of Courage at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia on January 20.
Catalan, a former wushu sanda standout started 2017 on a high note by submitting Indonesian prospect Adrian Matheis via a second-round armbar in January before thrashing China’s Bu Huo You Ga by way of unanimous decision seven months later.
Catalan is the lone Filipino representative at ONE Championship’s first live event of 2018.
“I am exerting a tremendous amount of effort in training. I want to keep on winning,” he said. “I am inspired to win my match this coming January 20 because I am representing the Philippines. It is always an honor to fight for my country. My goal in this bout is to win and bring pride to my nation.”
For Catalan, his first trip to the ONE Championship cage this 2018 is another step in his evolution as a martial artist. He hopes to keep up his winning streak and move closer to a potential shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
“My goal is to compete for the ONE Strawweight World Championship. I know before I get to that stage, I still have a lot of work ahead of me,” he said.
Catalan had a rough beginning in ONE Championship, but over the past year and a half, he has completely turned his career around.
Despite a tough debut in ONE Championship, which saw him lose to now-reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva, Catalan has rallied back.
Catalan has strung together three consecutive victories since September 2016 and will look to break into the upper echelon of the division when he meets Peng at ONE: Kings of Courage.
“I have a certain game plan, but I am prepared to defend against his wrestling,” he added.
Peng is the 2014 Chinese national youth Greco-Roman wrestling champion who made his debut at ONE: Legends of the World in Manila last November.
The Chinese standout leaned on his grappling prowess to overwhelm Cambodia’s Phat with a suplex halfway through the opening round.
“I am preparing a solid defense against him, but of course I am mixing in some offense as well. I am not sure if he will expect that I will add a twist to my game, but 80 percent of my preparation is in strength and conditioning,” Catalan said on how he is preparing for Peng.
“For this match, I think the strategy will flow once I am in the cage. I will just do my best to get the win, but also provide an exciting bout for the audience to enjoy,” Catalan added.
Catalan is hoping to win over Peng so he can have a rematch with Silva for the ONE Strawweight World Championship belt.
“Every fighter dreams to become a world champion. I really hope that ONE Championship will give me an opportunity to vie for the title in the future. This bout might be the door to a world title contest. Let us all hope for the best,” he ended.