When Filipino parents talk about their children's career prospects, they usually think about white-collared professions and picture their kids in white medical gowns, business suits, or hard hats with blueprints on hand.
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What they don't usually have in mind is their child opting to wear four-ounce gloves to compete for cold cash. But then the typical Pinoy household does not have Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in their kids' cards. Participating in the sport does not require a degree, which is why a lot of people assume that those who are in it do not aspire for more than having hard guts to endure the punishing blows inside the cage.
Danny Kingad is bent on breaking that stereotype. He has been pursuing his dream to be a prizefighter while diligently working at earning his bachelor's degree at the University of the Cordilleras.
Just like a comic-book superhero who leads a double life, Kingad wears his school uniform in the morning with his books. Meanwhile, he puts on his training clothes to hit some punch mitts and kick pads in the afternoon. The 23-year-old admits that it is not an easy balancing act, but he is prepared to do what it takes. “I learned how to manage my time with the help of my coaches and senior teammates,” he says. “I love this sport. I love to compete because this is my passion.”
The Baguio native says he has to minimize his units per semester to properly manage his professional career and academics. He has reaped dividends from his sacrifices as his name is starting to get recognized on the global stage.
A true warrior from the mountains and one of the most outstanding athletes to ever come out of the summer capital, Kingad is a tremendous striker who possesses well-rounded grappling skills. With an impressive record of 13-1, the Team Lakay member is now a household name in the talent-filled flyweight division of ONE Championship.
He has won eight of his last nine outings, starting from April 2016 to March of this year. His lone loss in that span was against current division champion Adriano Moraes in November 2017. Despite that blemish, it's still a remarkable feat as he turned from top prospect to world title contender just 17 months from making his promotional debut.
Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao believes that "The King" (his nickname) could be the next big thing in the sport, following in the footsteps of his seniors such as Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Geje Eustaquio.
“It’s a privilege to hear that from Coach Mark. I believe in what he said because I train with the best,” he replies. "There’s no pressure on me." Although the sport offers fame and fortune, the former national Wushu champion insists that education remains as his foremost priority. He knows that he will need another source of income as being a professional athlete has its limits. “By the time I reach 38 or 40, I need to retire and have another day job to support my family,” he conveys. “Education is something that I can use as I grow older."
Gearing up for a battle
As Kingad continues to juggle his attention between schoolwork and MMA, he is gearing up for the semi-final round of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix. He is slated to lock horns with Filipino-Australian spitfire Reece McLaren on the undercard of ONE: Dawn Of Heroes, which takes place at the 20,000-seater Mall Of Asia Arena in Pasay this friday, August 2.
He was originally penciled to duke it out with former flyweight kingpin Kairat Akhmetov, but the latter withdrew from the tournament due to an injury that he sustained in training. McLaren stepped in to take Akhmetov’s place after initially bowing out of the eight-man tourney at the hands of the Kazakh stalwart this past March.
It does not appear that Kingad is bothered by the sudden change of opponent, though his team had to tweak his plan of attack. “It’s pretty much the same. The game plan is to strike and to defend the ground well. I’ll try to keep the fight standing,” he reveals.
Kingad is fully convinced that McLaren is just as good as Akhmetov, as he knows better than to underestimate the challenge in front of him. “Reece is technical on the ground and that’s what I’m trying to avoid," he says. "I don’t think I’ll have a problem in the striking department because that’s my game plan."
If he will walk out of the state-of-the-art showground with his hand raised in triumph, Kingad plans to use it as a platform to remove the derogatory labels attached to prizefighters.
“I am giving everything I have in training for this fight. It will be a testament that pursuing your passion is not a hindrance in securing your future through education," he says. Kingad desires to see himself among the marginally growing number of MMA fighters with college degrees around the globe, proving that the word “unintellectual” has no relevance to the sport.
But for now, The King will have to be at his desk at school, listening to his professor while waiting for the bell to ring so he can head to the gym and train.