Features

ONE Championship's Most Talented Sibling Sensations

September 29, 2017

Though only a small percentage of the population compete professionally in martial arts, it’s common enough that family members train and practice together.

However, there comes a rare time when the two converge to produce professional martial arts families that achieve success together. Incredibly, four such families can be found in ONE Championship’s elite ranks.

Angela And Christian Lee

Angela, 21, and brother Christian, 19, are the epitome of born and raised martial artists. With father Ken and mother Jewelz both lifelong practitioners, they were always going to be exposed to the lifestyle.

As toddlers, they both started becoming active practitioners, and their parents’ love for martial arts has remained with them since, as if it passed directly into their genes. Both are Pankration World Champions, elite knockout artists, certified Brazilian jiu-jitsu submission specialists, and now professional ONE athletes with similar career trajectories.

Angela is undefeated at 8-0 and the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion with two successful title defenses to her credit. Christian is 7-1, with his lone defeat coming to ONE Featherweight Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, but at just 19, he is hotly-tipped for championship success in the future.

It is easy to forget that the pair are so young, with their respective monikers of “Unstoppable” and “The Warrior” serving as accurate descriptions of their in-cage performances. It seems as though the United MMA and Evolve MMA duo will be defining figures in the martial arts world for many years to come. 

Even more incredibly, they have two younger siblings, also a brother and sister pair, ready to replicate their success once they come of age.

Gianni and Keanu Subba

Due to their mixed heritage, Gianni and his younger brother Keanu took up taekwondo as children because they were often picked on. Martial arts was originally sought as a tool for self-defense.

Their talent soon led to competitive success, but moving from Malaysia to the United States disrupted their taekwondo training. However, the Kuala Lumpur-raised brothers were in it for the long haul, and eventually found the cage, discovering something they both instantly loved and excelled at.

If it was not for each other, however, it could have been over before it had even started. They could not afford the gym fees to train in Utah where they had moved for high school, but with a pair of cheap gloves, some YouTube tutorials, and a willing partner, they still managed to work on their skills.

More moves and a brief separation saw them diverge for a while, but when they were back together in Kuala Lumpur in 2012, they both got on the track to martial arts success. Their paths have differed slightly, with Gianni signing for ONE Championship for his pro debut later that October and remaining there since, while Keanu became a two-time amateur champion with MIMMA before entering the ONE cage in October 2015.

The 24-year-old Gianni is now a top contender in the flyweight division with an impressive 9-2 record, while the 23-year-old Keanu boasts a solid 5-3 record, which will serve as a good foundation moving forward at Bali MMA.

Edward And Eric Kelly

Eric, 35, and younger brother Edward, 33, hail from San Tomas Central, in the now famous wushu region of Baguio City, but it was not always on the cards for them to be martial artists. It was more likely that they would be farmers and carry on the family business, but that was not what either of them wanted.

The elder Kelly did not want the pressure of being a role model to his younger siblings, and left the farm to try and make his own way in life. He found wushu and joined the national squad, without realizing this would set off a spark in his younger brother, who followed in his footsteps in 2004.

Since then, both remained committed to the martial arts and found a love for in-cage competition. It was the younger of the two, Edward, who debuted first in March of 2009, with Eric’s first outing coming in July of the same year. Today, Edward holds an 8-4 record and Eric a 12-4 record, with both having taken on top opposition in ONE’s featherweight division.

Rene And Robin Catalan

Filipino brothers Rene, Rabin, and Robin Catalan form the only active trio in this piece, with the Catalan Fighting System family all heavily entrenched in the world of combat sports, competing and coaching out of their home gym in Makati. Former ONE flyweight Ruel would have made it four, had he still been active.

Rene, the eldest brother at 38, had always influenced his brothers with his training in wushu. It eventually led him to world championships in the art, and he passed the knowledge down to his siblings as they went on to have their own competitive success.

Rabin, 31, and Ruel, 29, were both wushu national champions, while Robin, 26, became the IFMA World Muay Thai Champion. Between them, they have experience in wushu, karate, boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and kickboxing, amongst other styles. They truly have become complete martial artists together.

All four brothers have been signed by ONE, with the three active Catalans being featured on cards in 2017. Elder statesman Rene is on a three-bout win streak after starting his career on rocky footing, showing that the evolution in martial arts is constant no matter what your age. Rabin and Robin, on the other hand, have put on some solid performances in the cage, and still have time on their side to make a dent in their respective divisions.