Blind eye, big heart: Jiar Castillo rises above his own limitations

jiar castillo

Jiar Castillo shows you that limitations matter only if you let them.

Castillo is beaming with satisfaction after his victory over URCC veteran Alvin Ramirez. The two men clashed at URCC BETS 2 last April 21, and the result went in Castillo’s favor. Early in the first round, Ramirez suffered a broken arm, which forced his corner to abruptly stop the fight.

“Masaya ako na nanalo ako,” Castillo told “Alam ko talaga na mananalo ako dahil sa nakita namin kung paano siya maglaro. Alam namin na kayang kaya siya. Masaya ako, masaya kaming lahat lalo na ang team ko pati na ang mga magulang ko.”

According to “Twister,” his kicks did all the damage. The subsequent takedown and slam then caused the arm to snap. “Tingin ko strikes (ang sanhi) kasi kung takedown, masyadong mababa ang slam ko. Tingin ko ang unang sipa ko at pangalawa ang naging factor na mabali ang arm. Siguro sa sipa nag-crack tapos sa slam doon na bumigay.”

Castillo found out that he’d be facing Ramirez a little over a month before the scheduled date. Fortunately for him, he was already training for the Pan-Asian International Jiu-jitsu competition. “Ang pinaghahandaan ko noon ay ang Pan Asians,” he shared. “Tapos, pumasok na ang laban with Alvin Ramirez, so tuloy-tuloy na ensayo ko para sa MMA fight.”

Answering the call to be a complete fighter

Hitman Training Camp, Castillo’s MMA team, made huge efforts to prepare him for his fight with just one-month’s worth of MMA training camp. They enlisted the assistance of Bellator welterweight AJ Matthews, coach George Castro of Alliance MMA, and some of the best local coaches in the country.

“More on techniques kami in training for this fight,” he explained. “The training is specific for my movement and conditioning. Hindi masyado maraming galaw na hindi naman kailangan. I trained six days a week, three times a day. Sa umaga, run. Sa tanghali, box with coach Melchor Espinosa; at sa gabi, conditioning with Gabay Forlales of Brawler’s Lab. The next day, sa umaga, sprints. Sa tanghali, Muay Thai. At sa gabi, Jiu-jitsu. And then alternate na ang schedule. Sunday lang ang rest day at family day.”

Winning the Academy Fighting Championship (AFC) flyweight title last year paved the road for Castillo. As the victor of AFC’s Fight Farm Series, he’s thankful for the experience and the opportunity to join the URCC. However, he sees that a lot of Filipino fighters need more tools in their game rather than relying heavily on one just aspect of fighting.

“Magagaling sila (AFC fighters) lalo na si (Norman) Agcopra,” Castillo said. “Malakas ang boxing niya, pero ang karamihan kasi ng fighters, hindi lang sa AFC, hindi lang sa Fight Farm, kung hindi sa Pilipinas, one-sided lang ang style. Sabihin natin na magaling sa boxing or sa Muay Thai. Ang gagawin lang nila, takedown defense. Wala na silang Jiu-jitsu at wala na silang ground game. Pero mixed martial arts ang laro, so kailangan kumpleto. Pero hindi naman lahat pagsasamahin. Hindi lahat ng techniques ng wrestling, Muay Thai, or Karate. Kukuha ka lang ng mga technique na tingin mo applicable sa style mo na mas gaganda ang skill set mo.”

Overcoming adversity, making his mark

Before Lady Luck smiled on “Twister,” he grappled with his own setbacks. His memorable fights were those that came by defeat and a particular loss he mentioned was against Danny Kingad of Team Lakay.

“Marami akong memorable fights pero karamihan ay ang mga talo ko. Tinatanggap ko ang mga yun eh. Katulad ng kay Danny Kingad sa Spartacus MMA. Natalo niya talaga ako dahil hindi ko inaasahan ang gagawin niya. Akala ko makikipagsabayan sa strikes pero nagshoot siya. May mga mali ako sa fight. Hindi ako nakatulog maigi bago ang laban. Ang lesson na natutunan ko, bago ng laban, dapat makatulog ka. Ang tulog ko na lang nun 4 hours, kaya ang reaksyon ng katawan ko ang bagal.”

Castillo didn’t dwell on his mistakes and instead made the adjustments. He added, that he and his team developed a game that addresses his blindness.

“Alam ko na hindi pa tapos ang learning at ngayon ginagawa ko na ang adjustment. Kahit na nananalo ako, learning pa rin. Lahat ng nangyari, learning process yan. Manalo, matalo, learning yan. Ang mata ko, literally blind na yan, so 50% na lang ang vision ko. In-adjust ko ang fighting style ko dahil sa mata ko. In-adjust ko ang style ko para mas maging safe ako sa mga laban.”

Although the AFC champion is knocking on the door for a potential URCC title match against Derrick Easterling, he wouldn’t mind getting a rematch against a former foe. “Ang gusto ko makaharap si Danny Kingad. Siya ang tumalo sa akin fair and square.”

Don Gaoiran

Rabble-rouser, thought-provoker, and fight instigator here at Dojo Drifter