By Dan Paulo Errazo
Philippine martial arts veteran Rene “D’Challenger” Catalan of Iloilo has long felt that he is a suitable challenger for the ONE Strawweight World Title. Despite a rocky start in his ONE Championship career, the 40-year-old wushu world champion has put together a nifty five-bout win streak and is knocking on the door of a World Title shot.
But the Manila-based martial arts veteran has yet to receive that call.
Instead, reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of Baguio City will defend his title against Japanese stalwart Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta in the headline bout of ONE: Eternal Glory on 19 January. The blockbuster event emanating from the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia is ONE’s first show in 2019.
Top strawweight contender Hayato Suzuki was Pacio’s original opponent, but due to injury, Saruta had to step in and take his place. Although Catalan respects the promotion’s decision to bypass him for a title shot, “D’Challenger” feels he is still right up there among the top in his division.
“I think my previous performances can vouch for my position as a contender for the belt. I scored five-straight victories against top-tier opponents, which qualifies me to be a title contender,” Catalan said.
Catalan has trampled some of the biggest names in his division, including Indonesians Adrian Matheis and Stefer Rahardian. But it was his performance against China’s Peng Xue Wen which really sent a message. Catalan dominated the scrambles and won via thrilling ground-and-pound TKO in the second round.
Despite being currently one of the hottest properties at strawweight, Catalan says he will remain patient in waiting for a shot at ONE Championship glory.
“I respect (the promotion’s) decision for choosing Yosuke Saruta. Of course, there is a reason behind it. I accept it wholeheartedly. It’s not my time yet,” he said. “I am patiently waiting. I know (my time) will come.”
Though Catalan’s next bout may not be for a title, he believes that every victory will certainly inch him closer and through patience and hard work, his time will come soon enough.
“My goal is to keep on winning until my time to compete for the title comes,” he stressed. “This kind of situation motivates me more. I expect big and favorable things to happen this 2019.”