28-year-old ONE Championship standout Geje Eustaquio believes his success has come with a bit of luck, although he has always possessed the drive and talent necessary to achieve all of his goals. He has capitalized on every opportunity that has come his way, and rarely moves without calculation, much like his dazzling wushu style.
As a result, Eustaquio earned himself a Master’s degree, and is a perennial contender in ONE Championship’s flyweight and bantamweight divisions. However, his parents did not always support his martial arts pursuits. In fact, they discouraged him from it during his childhood.
The Filipino known as “Gravity” was raised in a peaceful mountain community in the Benguet province, and his parents stressed an importance on education. All other activities and interests took a distant backseat to acquiring a much-desired college degree.
While Eustaquio’s two sisters have embarked on more secure career paths, such as nursing and engineering, he planned on invoking his culture’s Igorot warrior spirit and testing his skills in battle.
“In our region, our culture is simple. You go to school, you graduate with your degree, and you go find a job,” said Eustaquio. “When I was in college, they did not want me to play sports, because it was a distraction. They did not want me to do martial arts, but I was a hard-headed boy and I was stubborn. I proved to them that I could do a lot of things at the same time.”
As a teenager, Eustaquio first took an interest in kickboxing, which operated as a gateway to all other traditional and non-traditional martial arts. He did not have to travel far from home to watch the inspiring action up close and personal.
“In our community, there is small local kickboxing promotion. I used to watch those events. I got encouraged. I wanted to be those guys. I wanted to stand up and compete, so I looked for a gym to train,” he says.
While attending Baguio City National High School, Eustaquio found the perfect place to kick off his martial arts journey. At 14, he was a big dreamer, but he put in the work to make his lofty goals become a reality. He remained dedicated to his craft and cultivated his talent. “I just did my best,” he says, “and then, the opportunities came.”
He was selected to be on the Junior National Team for wushu, and by the time he graduated from high school in 2005, had earned a wushu scholarship to the University Of The Cordilleras. Like many others, Eustaquio then moved to the university to train under the national team’s head coach, Mark Sangiao, who was highly-regarded as an inspirational figure.
In 2009, Eustaquio earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and taught in school for a year. However, he quickly realized that his heart yearned for the challenging world of martial arts, and not in a classroom all day, and at home grading papers all night.
“I was done with my degree,” he remembers. “I was so excited to apply it to my work. Then I tried it for a year. My world became so small. My job took all of my time. They get you from 7:30am in the morning to 5:30pm in the afternoon, then you have homework and paperwork. I was like, ‘No, I am too young for this.’”
Then another opportunity arose in February 2011, when a Filipino promotion was in desperate need of some competitors. Eustaquio, who had semi-regularly trained out of Sangiao’s Team Lakay camp, was encouraged by his coach to test his skills inside the cage.
“Coach Mark said: ’Why not try?,’” he recalls of their simple conversation. “So I said, ‘Let’s go!’’
Eustaquio knocked out his opponent within a minute of the opening bell. His professional career has been on the rise ever since.
Now signed to ONE Championship, Eustaquio is highly-regarded as one of the most talented strikers in the promotion. In 2014, Eustaquio’s hard work paid off, as he was granted a shot at the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Championship against reigning titleholder Adriano Moraes.
Although Eustaquio fell via second-round submission, the Filipino says he has learned many lessons since then, and would showcase his findings should he meet the champion again someday. It seems that day could be fast approaching.
Eustaquio is scheduled to meet former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat Akhmetov at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY on Saturday, 16 September, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia. It is a bout with serious title implications, as both men are looking for another crack at ONE Championship gold. Akhmetov lost his title to Moraes in a rematch just a month ago, and a win could earn either man what they desire.
“I know Kairat [Akhmetov] wants to get back in the cage with Adriano [Moraes], and so do I. This bout will show the world who is ready for another title opportunity,” said Eustaquio. “I have worked long and hard, and have been waiting a long time for this. Win or lose, I’m going to come into this bout at my best, and give my full effort.”
Although he was met with resistance previously from his parents, knowing what he is capable of achieving in his career, they are now in full support.
Eustaquio has not only challenged and changed some of the pre-conceived notions of combat sports athletes in his home country, he has also altered the dynamic in his own home. His success in the cage has made his parents believers.
“I have their full support. They are telling me to train harder and prepare more,” he says with a chuckle. “They tell me if you want to be a champion, then you need to work harder. My parents now push my little brother to train, too.”
Even with his hopes of someday capturing the ONE Flyweight World Championship, he still has not left the classroom entirely behind. Last year, he earned his Masters in Physical Education, and plans to get his doctorate some time in the future.
“I found the understanding that we are martial artists, and we are expected to behave as complete athletes,” says Eustaquio. “Besides the body, you should also train the mind. I found out that teaching is my spiritual gift, so I am going to use it to the fullest, if God permits.”