Louie Sangalang pushed Team Valor colleague Eugene Chung to the forefront in both the physical and boardroom challenges in Episode 7 of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, and his other teammates took notice.

Sangalang, a trained mixed martial artist and former champion, baffled the field as he pushed Chung in his stead in the one-on-one grappling match overseen by ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion Xiong Jing Nan and ONE women’s atomweight contender Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat. In the business task where the candidates were challenged to create an advertorial for wildlife awareness, the Filipino candidate deferred to Chung anew.

Sangalang said he saw the eagerness of his teammate Eugene to join the grappling challenge so he allowed the 23-year-old digital marketer to face off against the bigger, heftier Niraj Puran Rao of Team Conquest — a decision which raised eyebrows from both teams.

“I appreciated that Eugene stepped up, but when I tried to reflect on the logic, (it looked like) a strategic move. I know that Louie’s a smart and strategic competitor,” said Irina Chadsey, of Team Valor. Sangalang reasoned it was a matter of martial arts honor, citing the opponent’s white belt ranking.

More than his decision to sit out the grappling task, Sangalang’s motives were further questioned when he proposed that Chung take on the role of project manager for the business task to promote awareness for the contributions of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

“You were able to redeem yourself with the physical task and you’re riding that very high morale. It’s time for you to unleash your greatness,” Louie told Eugene.

“I think Louie just wanted to put Eugene in a position where he’s either gonna make it or break it, and I truly believe that Louie thinks Eugene is going to break it,” remarked Team Valor colleague Monica Millington.

“I’m still not 100-percent confident he’s telling me the truth,” added Chadsey. “I have all the respect for Louie, but in a strategic perspective, he’s very clever. I’m not accusing Louie doing something wrong but perhaps I would not play mind games like he does.”

In the end Team Valor did lose the business task, most evidently for Eugene’s poor leadership skills.

“It was actually the three of us working together and caring for a child,” Sangalang said in a bitter realization of his wrong judgment in entrusting the reins to Chung. “Eugene has been through a lot of rough times starting from the first week. To be honest, I really wanted Eugene to redeem himself and prove that he’s not a quitter.”

But Louie’s gamble eventually cost Chung his spot in the competition.

It truly was an eye-opener, not just for Sangalang, but for the seven other remaining candidates. In this high-stakes game of business and physical challenges to get the US$250,000 job offer to work as Sityodtong’s protégé and chief of staff at the ONE Championship Global Headquarters in Singapore for a year — one must always do what is right.

“Leadership has everything to do with serving your team to the best of your ability, and most importantly, doing what is right. I strongly encourage you to reflect on this lesson, that a leader must serve his or her team’s needs by doing what is right. Not what is easiest, but what is right,” Sityodtong said.

Sangalang is well aware of the stakes and understands that it is on him to make the right decisions to truly be hailed as “the one.”

The first season of “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition” has 13 episodes and can be seen in the Philippines on Thursdays, 8:50 pm on AXN cable network and on Mondays at 9 p.m. on One Sport.