Geje Eustaquio considers himself lucky, but he has always possessed the drive and talent to achieve all of his lofty goals. The 28-year-old has capitalized on every opportunity that has come his way.
As a result, he has a Master’s degree, and is a perennial contender in both of 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 the 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 am a hardheaded boy and I am 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, the man now known as “Gravity” found a gym and kicked off his martial arts journey. At 14, he was a big dreamer, but he put in the work to make his lofty goals become 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 Bachelors degree in Education, and taught in school for a year. He quickly realized that his heart still lay in the lively and challenging world of martial arts, however, 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 7:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon, then you have homework and paperwork. I was like, ‘No, I am too young for this profession.’”
Then another opportunity arose in February 2011, when a Filipino mixed martial arts 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!’’
The man known as “Gravity” knocked out his opponent via punches within a minute of the opening bell, and his professional career has been on the rise ever since. Now signed to ONE Championship, he is scheduled to rematch Thailand’s Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad in a flyweight affair at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES on Friday Night, 26 May, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Their first contest ended in a split decision in favor of Bunrad. It is a loss he is keen to avenge.
Eustaquio has not only challenged and changed some of the pre-conceived notions of combat sports athletes in his home country, but he has also altered the dynamic in his own home. His success in the sport made his parents believers, as they now wholeheartedly support both him and his younger brother.
“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 Eustauiqo. “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.”