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Rene Catalan makes MMA return, battles Eros Baluyot in URCC debut

Rene Catalan makes his URCC debut after a two-year hiatus. ONE Championship (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Rene Catalan returns to the mixed martial arts cage after two years as he officially joins the URCC through a showdown against Eros Baluyot at URCC 87: Heroes on Tuesday night at the Xylo at the Palace in Taguig.

Catalan, who spent his entire MMA career at ONE Championship prior to the hiatus, makes his URCC debut right at the said card's main event.

Although he has already played at a larger promotion, Catalan revealed that it was his wish when he was still new to MMA to fight at URCC.

"Yung pangarap ko dati na maglaro [sa URCC], ngayon lang natupad," the 44-year-old Catalan said during the pre-fight press conference on Thursday also in Xylo.

Catalan (6-5) looks to snap a three-fight losing streak that he incurred at ONE from 2020 to 2021, but he goes up against Baluyot, who looks to continue a hot start to his MMA career.

However, Baluyot is aware that this is the first acid test of his young MMA career considering that Catalan once challenged for ONE's 125-pound belt and also beat fellow title contenders.

"Excited akong makaharap si coach Rene Catalan kasi isa siya sa mga legends na rito sa Philippine MMA. Yung legacy niya dito sa sport na ito, nai-build na, kaya super excited ako sa parating na Tuesday," said Baluyot, who won his first two MMA fights.

Both Catalan (wushu) and Baluyot (jiujitsu) are world champions in their old sports before shifting to MMA, making this striker-versus-grappler battle an exciting contest.

“Awesome, awesome card that we’re gonna have here, especially our main event. We have two world champions here… going up against each other,” URCC president Alvin Aguilar said.

The other pro MMA bouts pit Rex De Lara and Mhar John Manahan in the featherweights, Mark Cuizon and Rufino Mante in the bantamweights, and Kerwin Tan and Marco Lampacan in another flyweight encounter.

In amateur MMA, Paolo Cruz takes on Jerald Vellarde in a 150-pound catchweight contest.

Also slated to take place is a bare-knuckle boxing showdown between Christian Panliag and Chris Cantos.

In special slap battle attractions, Milarde Hugo takes on Reynaldo Beltrano, Roldan Licame battles Gi-Jay Velasco, and Gerald Gabonada exchanges facial hits with Michael Azucena.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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