Kevin Belingon believes that there is more than just reclaiming the ONE Championship bantamweight title when he squares off with Brazilian rival Bibiano Fernandes this October.
His fourth meeting with his rival will be done under the event ONE: Century, which will be held in Tokyo on October 13. Aside from regaining the gold-plated strap, the Kiangan, Ifugao native seeks to redeem Team Lakay in the eyes of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world.
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The Philippines’ most popular MMA stable was unquestionably head and shoulders above everyone else in Asia when it finished 2018 with four world titles under ONE Championship’s umbrella and a belt in Brave Combat Federation. But Team Lakay went on a tough stretch where Belingon, Joshua Pacio, Geje Eustaquio, and Eduard Folayang lost all of their championship titles in quick succession from January to March.
Although they got back a title in April when Pacio defeated Yosuke Saruta in a rematch, the stable hit another a rough patch when they lost four of their five matches at ONE: Dawn of Heroes last Friday. Folayang, Eustaquio, Honorio Banario, and Edward Kelly all suffered defeats in front of the crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena. Only Danny Kingad managed to get a victory that night.
Belingon realizes that there is pressure to bring back Team Lakay’s thunder. “Even though I was not scheduled to compete that night, it was hard for me to see them lose,” the 31-year-old admits. “If we get the belt back in Tokyo, I think it will help bring back the confidence, inspiration, and joy to our team."
Belingon says that losing is part of sports. "We are used to it. We have proven before that we can bounce back."
Belingon draws inspiration from a teammate as he hopes to bring the crown back to the mountains of La Trinidad, Benguet. “I know there is pressure, but I want to turn it into motivation. I am thankful for my teammates like Joshua Pacio," he says. "He got his belt back. Now, I have to get mine."
Belingon has already been working hard at the gym even before the fourth bout with Fernandes was officially announced, knowing the day of reckoning is just around the corner. After three meetings against the 39-year-old, touted as the most dominant titleholder in ONE Championship history, Belingon is now familiar with what his opponent is capable of doing inside the cage. “I already know what to expect and what I’ll do in our fourth match,” he states. “For our game plan, I’m leaving it to my coach Mark Sangiao, so I can effectively counter his striking and takedowns.”
The man known as “The Silencer” may not be willing to give too much away about his strategy. Reading between the lines, though, he is expected to be aggressive from the get-go. The two had a split decision in November and had an anticlimactic end to their rubber match last March.
“Hard to tell how it will end, but I’m looking for a knockout so that all talks will be settled,” Belingon says. “It’s hard to leave this to the judges because there would be doubts. I have to get that knockout win.”