With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing almost all traditional sporting events around the world to a halt, athletes have found themselves stuck in quarantine at home as they wait for things to get back to normal.
While they count down the days until they can do what they do best and compete in front of fans worldwide once again, these men and women have found a way to keep their competitive drives going through esports.
Such is the case for several of ONE Championship’s biggest stars, who have used esports as a fun way to pass the time and quench their thirst for competition.
“I can say that esports is one of the biggest platforms today, and I’ve gotten addicted to it, especially since we’ve been under Enhanced Community Quarantine here in Baguio,” said reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, who says his game of choice is the massively-popular mobile game Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. “I’m playing Mobile Legends a lot.”
Pacio added that he feels the game has been a huge factor in the boom of esports in the Philippines because the multiplayer online battle arena game is accessible for so many people.
“I think the popularity of esports has increased a lot because of Mobile Legends. A lot of people are into it,” he adds.
“It will become even bigger and bigger because it’s taking over all gadgets here in the Philippines. Before, you could only play games using computers or consoles like a PlayStation or an Xbox. Nowadays, you can play using just your phones.”
It’s not just Pacio from Team Lakay, the Philippines’ top mixed martial arts stable, who has been bitten by the esports bug. His fellow World Champions have gotten into the battle arena action, too.
“Even kuya Eduard [Folayang] and kuya Kevin [Belingon] are playing as well. We enjoy it a lot because it’s not just a game, it’s a game where you need to use your brain. It’s like playing chess,” Pacio explained.
“I play Mobile Legends a lot, especially after I’m done with my home training,” said former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang.
Folayang, a veteran of almost 13 years as a professional mixed martial artist, believes esports shares some important similarities with his sport. Just like when he competes inside the Circle, a game plan is essential before he begins to play.
“You need the preparation, you need to invest time to practice and get better in the game, you also have to learn how to strategize, and you also must have teamwork,” he added.
Perhaps the most notable gamer on the ONE Championship roster is ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion and number one flyweight contender, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
Johnson has a huge following on his YouTube and Twitch channels, where he streams and documents his video gaming endeavors. Due to the current quarantine situation, “Mighty Mouse” has been playing a lot.
“I’ve been gaming almost every day,” Johnson said. “I’m currently playing Escape from Tarkov, and I’m waiting for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands to come out.
Johnson added that, like competing as a mixed martial artist, gaming also entails a lot of hard work. Improving his skills and building his following takes countless hours.
“It’s a grind. It’s a non-stop grind.”
Esports has become one of the world’s fastest growing industries, and back in 2019, ONE Championship, the world’s largest martial arts organization, branched out with the launch of ONE Esports.
Since then, ONE Esports has successfully held numerous tournaments and events. After seeing what it is capable of, Pacio, Folayang, and Johnson all believe that establishing ONE Esports was an excellent move for the martial arts powerhouse.
“It was definitely a smart move for ONE to venture into esports because, like I’ve said, a lot of people are into it all over the globe, and a lot of us athletes are also playing online games as well,” said Pacio.
“It’s a very smart move because, like us martial artists, gamers are also looking for a big platform to be able to showcase their skills, and ONE Esports gives them that opportunity,” added Folayang.
“I think it was a really smart move,” commented Johnson. “It can’t hurt to diversify your brand or your organization.”
Esports is already on an upward trajectory, and for those who are immersed in the industry, it looks like there are no signs of slowing down.
“The sky is the limit for esports,” Johnson stated. “If developers keep making games, I don’t see esports stopping anytime soon.”