Pinoy fighter Eugene Toquero charms fans with charisma at ONE event
MANILA, Philippines – The opening notes to Katy Perry’s hit song “Roar” blared through the Mall of Asia Arena’s speakers Friday night, December 11. The crowd fittingly roared in approval right away.
Eugene Toquero, a Filipino MMA fighter, emerged from the black curtain and walked down the ramp to the cage, his compatriots cheering even louder. Anyone busy over something had to look up and see who had sparked an otherwise quiet crowd.
Toquero, 34, was an instant fan favorite at ONE Championship’s year-end “Spirit of Champions” Manila event. It may have been due to his switching from poker face to a silly grin every once in a while, or how he egged fans on whenever he could, but certainly his hair had something to do with it.
Toquero, who drew excitement as early as Thursday’s weigh-in wearing an orange shirt and jeans, repeteadly stroked his hair upward as he was introduced and several times throughout the fight Friday, prompting the media to ask what was with his hair.
“(May) lisa. Makati e (There are nits. It’s itchy),” Toquero cracked a solid joke as his answer, causing loud laughter before he explained his ritual, which in itself is commonly seen as a gesture to look cool or charming. (READ: 'Touch my hair, you're dead' warns ONE FC fighter Toquero)
“Kumbaga nung nagsimula kasi ako nung may talo ako, pag ganoon ko, hindi tumayo. Pag ganoon ko biglang bumaba, natalo. Pero pag ganoon ko tapos tatayo, hindi bababa, yun sigurado. Kaya gumagaan pakiramdam ko. Kaya sabi ko sigurado na.”
(When I started out and I lost, when I stroked my hair, it did not stay up. When I stroked my hair it fell and I lost. But when I stroke it and it stays up, it doesn’t go down, then I’m sure [I’ll win]. So I feel good about it. I tell myself it’s a sure win.)
His hair stayed up Friday night as Toquero went on to defeat Li Wei Bin via technical knockout as he mauled the Chinese fighter with precision strikes, forcing Li to wave the white flag before the third round.
After the final bell, the flyweight stroked his hair once more to commence his post-fight rituals. Toquero later on asked a victory kiss from the ring girl and posed for a photo with his arm around her, causing even more raucous laughter and cheers from his home crowd.
The Cebu native was one of only two Filipinos to win at Spirit of Champions – the other being new heavyweight world champion Brandon Vera – and he satisfied fans’ craving to celebrate a victory.
Toquero not only won his fight to improve to an 8-2 record, he also won over the fans once again without question.
“Patuloy niyo lang suporta kasi every time maglalaro ako lagi akong nagiisip paano i-entertain yung mga tao. Kasi masayang manood ng action talaga na kakaiba,” the charismatic fighter explained his antics.
(Please keep supporting me every time I fight because I always think about how I can entertain the crowd. It’s fun to watch real action that’s a bit different.)
He displayed more of his colorful character throughout the press conference.
“Kasi yung ibang mga fighters seryoso talaga lang e. Doon, laro kaunti. Pag may time tapusin, tapusin, lalo pag nasasaktan na ako. Nag-iiba ako e.” (Other fighters are too serious. I play around a little bit. When I have time to finish it, I will, especially when I’m already hurting. I become a different person.) – Rappler.com