Froilan Sarenas has been a BJJ purple belt for over three years which makes him one of the most accomplished grapplers in Filipino MMA. He has already started putting that skill set to good use in mixed martial arts, submitting two opponents out of two and becoming the URCC Middleweight Champion in the process.
The URCC is the most prestigious promotion in the Philippines and has been going strong for almost a decade and this weekend sees a star studded card on which Sarenas will be defending his middleweight strap for the first time.
He will be facing Judo and Muay Thai specialist Dexter Mistades in one of five title fights on offer for the fans at the World Trade Centre in Manila on November 5th. There are some outstanding mixed martial artists in the Philippines but very few come from a BJJ background which makes Sarenas a real force to be reckoned with in the URCC Middleweight division,
"I first did some grappling when i was in college, it was just out of curiosity and for self defense and exercise. Then I started doing BJJ around 2004 so i can join gi tournaments, it took me four years to get to purple belt and I've been purple for three years now. I do train a lot of MMA now, but BJJ is still my main style. I still train with the gi and I'm still planning to join BJJ tournaments."
The surge in popularity in MMA of the Philippines has not translated into an explosion in interest in BJJ and at present there are just four big schools although there are numerous places practicing ground fighting techniques for MMA.
The effectiveness of these techniques was demonstrated by URCC Featherweight Champion Eric Kelly at One Fighting Championship, who showed that you don't need to have a belt in BJJ to be a great grappler when he choked out Mitch Chilson early in the opening round. It was the sixth consecutive submission win of Kelly's career and it is no wonder that Sarenas lists him as being one of the top Filipino fighters,
"I saw Eric and Eduard (Folayang) fight at One FC and I was cheering for them. They are the best fighters in the Philippines along with Kevin Belingon. I'd love to fight for a big international show like One FC, that would be a very big step for me and a big honor, lets see what happens."
He will be fighting on one of the biggest shows the Philippines has ever seen on Saturday. The main event was originally supposed to feature URCC Flyweight champion Kevin Belingon in a superfight with interim Bantamweight champion Jessie Rafols but injury forced Belingon off the card and so Rafols will be up against the dangerous Reydon Romero instead.
Also in action will be the highly rated Honorio Banario of Team Lakay Wushu who will be putting his unbeaten record and lightweight title on the line against Patrick Manicad. There will also be title fights at heavyweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight as well as middleweight.
Sarenas has not fought for a year and is faced with the prospect of trying to shake off the ring rust in front of a sizable audience watching at the World Trade Centre as well as all over the country on cable TV. He says he will be well prepared come fight night but admits to being in the dark about what his debutant opponent might have to offer,
"Actually I don't know much about him. I know his team specializes in Judo and Muay Thai so my gameplan kinda relies on that knowledge. I train in stand up myself, mainly Muay Thai and boxing, but I would like to train more."
The URCC middleweight division has an upper limit of 179 lbs and Sarenas, who lists his favorite fighter as Chael Sonnen, would look to drop down to welterweight or even lower if he ever fought on the international stage. For the time being he is totally focused on his upcoming title defense which he says will be the biggest night of his entire martial art's career,
"The URCC is where the best fighter in the Philippines showcase their talents and where all up and coming fighters want to fight in. Being part of a URCC card is an accomplishment already but URCC XX is a milestone in Filipino MMA and I'm so excited to be a part of it along with so many other great fighters."
URCC XX is taking place on November 5th at the World Trade Centre in Pasay City and features a stellar card with the following fights on offer:
Rodel Orais vs Jilmar Tangayan
Mac Sabiano vs Pete Brooks (for vacant Cruiserweight Title)
Andrew Benibe vs Sulpiano Laurio
Honorio Banario vs Patrick Manicad (for Banario's Lightweight Title)
Lando Espinosa vs Adam Cacay
Will Chope vs Jerson Estoro
Dexter Mistades vs Froilan Sarenas (for Sarenas' Middleweight Title)
Ryan Palinawan vs Igor Subora (for vacant Heavyweight Title)
Nicholas Mann vs Christian Luna (for vacant Light Heavyweight Title)
Reydon Romero vs Jessie Rafols (for Rafols interim Bantamweight Title)
For more information about URCC XX visit the URCC website.