As a deaf person, Ignacio Sato has always let his hands do the talking. But one night recently his hands made a bolder statement when he became the first deaf person on the island of Bohol and possibly the Philippines to join a mixed martial arts tournament, and win! As soon as the fight started, Ignacio dominated, steadily stalking his opponent around the ring. The other fighter kept his distance from Ignacio’s powerful blows but was unable to escape in the second round.
Fighting in a professional tournament was no easy feat for Ignacio, as his trainers learned early on. When coaching a hearing fighter during a match the trainers will yell commands and strategies from just outside the ropes. In Ignacio’s case, he needed to intensely focus on his opponent, so much so that he could not even benefit from visual cues given to him from the sidelines as the fight progressed. This meant he had to execute his game plan from memory.
He received his training in Tagbilaran City at Red Dragon Mixed Martial Arts under the instruction of Voltaire Gonzales. When he began two years ago there were three other deaf young men training with him. From among the four, only Ignacio continued training seriously. At training, even the hearing practitioners saw his performance as inspiring. His instructor commented, “He is a challenging student to teach and source of inspiration for me. I am proud of him as his instructor and I know he will go a long way.”
At his place of employment, the Garden Cafe, he has become a sort of celebrity among his co-workers. His manager’s Judelyn Cuyacot and Lina Duhig observe that though he has earned the admiration of his peers, Ignacio remains as humble as always, and continues to be a valuable worker in the kitchen. “He’s a good cook,” says Lina, “even more so when cooking his specialty, Sinigang (a native Filipino vegetable dish).”