Why Luis Manzano loves combat sports

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Luis Manzano doing Muay Thai kicks and punches: “There will always be someone better than you.”

Chased by legions of fans, a shirtless Luis Manzano seeks cover in his dressing room. Not that the girls are swooning over the TV host’s buff body. They are actually running after a can of tuna in his hand.

Since the airing of that Century Tuna commercial a few months ago, sales of its corned variant, which Manzano is an endorser, have skyrocketed.

“He is very masa yet upscale,” commented Greg Banzon, general manager of Century Pacific Food, on Manzano’s influence. “An approachable and genuine authority figure, while being funny at the same time.”

Manzano admitted to that he was chunky before the commercial was shot. Last year, he indulged in pizzas and chocolates, particularly hazelnut and white variants. “I have a sweet tooth,” he said.

His mother, actress and Lipa City Rep. Vilma Santos, was concerned since her son works in a visual and unforgiving medium. She remarked, “Anak, tumataba ka na. Ang pangit ng leeg mo. Mag-kuwelyo ka, anak. (Son, you are putting on weight. Your neck looks awful. Wear a collar, son).”

At the time of the interview, the 35-year-old celebrity had lost 10 lbs for the commercial and planned to lose more.

Manzano has since been on a low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet, and eats chocolates only as a reward.

He wakes up to a clove of garlic or cinnamon for their medicinal properties, and eats blueberries for antioxidants.

A typical meal would include whole wheat bread, quinoa or brown rice with tuna, naturally, and broccoli and carrots. He eases up during Sunday meals with his mother.

Manzano keeps fit with martial arts—tae kwon do, aikido, judo, jiujitsu, tabemina Balintawak (Filipino reflex training with sticks), mixed martial arts and Muay Thai (Thai boxing).

He picked up his penchant for combat sports from his father, actor-host, Edu Manzano, who is a judoka, a judo expert.

The younger Manzano fell in love with mixed martial arts for its simplicity and complexity.

“You get the best from each discipline and put them all together to be as effective as possible,” he said. “It’s primal. You’re always surging with adrenaline.”

Between hosting schedules, he works out at the Ultimate Fitness Center, where he trains for Muay Thai and jiujitsu under different coaches.

Physically and mentally

“The workouts balance you physically and mentally. One thing I’ve learned from my coach is that you always assume that your opponent is more skilled than you. There’s always the bigger fish,” said Manzano.

To improve his skills, he even attended a Muay Thai fight camp in Phuket, Thailand. His coach started fighting at age 7 to escape poverty, recorded 500 fights and retired at age 39. The coach would flunk Manzao if he didn’t do well.

Combat sports are not without injuries. In Thailand, Manzano had a month-long bump from shin-to-shin sparring. Then there were the usual shoulder strains from pulling punches and low back pains for not warming up properly or when learning a new movement. He’s had to lay off for weeks to recover from an injury.

Nonetheless, Manzano doesn’t let injuries get in the way of his goal, which is improving his technique and building endurance.

Since stamina is his Achilles heel, he does CrossFit to complement his combat sports. If he wakes up early, he drinks a glass of water and coffee and works out for 30 minutes, swinging kettle bells or rowing.

Manzano loves the thrill of competition. However, his celebrity parents, his girlfriend, actress Jessy Mendiola, and his manager have prohibited him from competing. “I can’t say ‘I have a shoot tomorrow, please don’t hit my face!’ I could easily get a black eye or worse, a cut,” he said.

He sensibly chose work over passion. Asked what motivates him to pursue combat sports, he cited health reasons: “I see people at a young age getting sick. Some friends die because of health problems. My main goal is to spend quality time with my future family.” —CONTRIBUTED

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