SINGAPORE—Filipino mixed martial arts star Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon made quite a bit of history in his split decision win over Brazilian champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes at ONE: Heart of the Lion last November 9th in Singapore.
The hard-fought win over Fernandes makes Belingon the first man to defeat the Brazilian inside a ONE Championship cage, and he becomes the first person to defeat Fernandes since Hiroyuki Takaya way back in 2010.
More importantly, Belingon becomes the man responsible for dethroning Fernandes as ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
Belingon and Fernandes’ title bout in Singapore was the highly-anticipated rematch of their January 2016 bout that saw Fernandes assert his dominance and submit the Filipino in just under a round.
So for Belingon, this win was a product of over two years of hard work and improvement.
“Siyempre masaya ako kasi nakabawi ako sa unang pagkatalo ko sa kanya,” a beat-up but jubilant Belingon said following the fight. “Parang mas lumaki pa yung achievements ko, so masayang masaya talaga ako na natalo ko si [Bibiano], tapos parang even na kami.”
More than anything, it was Belingon’s submission defense that shone through during the rematch.
Having already faced and lost to Fernandes before, Belingon knew exactly what he had to work on and what he had to avoid.
“Syempre, yung unang laban namin, charge to experience yun,” Belingon admitted. “Yung jiu-jitsu ko dun, parang grade one pa, walang masyadong technique tapos hindi ako confident makipag-away sa ground, kaya yun yung isang nag-challenge sa akin, kaya ayun, tuloy-tuloy na yung improvements sa ground game namin.”
Throughout the five-round contest, Belingon defended a number of submission attempts from Fernandes who is considered as one of the most feared and decorated grapplers in the planet.
Aside from the victory and the world championship, Belingon brings home with him a sense of fulfillment knowing that he was able to survive being taken down and grappling with one of the world’s best submission grapplers.
“Very satisfied ako kasi nga black belt siya sa jiu-jitsu, tapos na-depensahan ko yung attempts niya. Ayun pa lang, yung pag-escape ko sa armbar, very satisfied na ako, kasi kahit hindi ko man ma-submit si Bibiano, at least na-eskeypan ko yung mga attempts niya,” the Filipino fighter proudly stated.
Now, more than two years of working to get back to the mountain-top, Belingon has firmly planted his flag on the summit of the ONE Championship bantamweight division, a division that was long ruled by Fernandes.
While Belingon was already a world champion coming into the rematch, the Ifugao native knew that the main prize was the undisputed title, and felt that he needed to prove that he could go all the way.
“Yung interim kasi, parang temporary. Kumbaga temporary title, tapos itong undisputed, ito na ‘to. Ito na ‘yung totoong title, kaya masayang-masaya ako kasi nakuha ko yung interim tapos na-prove ko pa na kaya kong makuha yung undisputed belt.”
Now that he’s at the pinnacle, the challenge now for Belingon is remaining at the top of that division and keeping the prestigious ONE title firmly secured around his waist.
“Same pa rin yung mindset nung hindi pa ako champion,” he expressed. “Ngayong nakuha ko na ito, kailangan naman depensahan, yun yung isang parang next na goal ko, kailangan idepensa, idepensa, idepensa para manatili yung title sa akin.”
Click on the image below for slideshow
It took Kevin Belingon 2 years of tough training to redeem himself vs arch rival Bibiano Fernandes after his humiliating defeat vs the Brazilian MMA artist in 2016.
Kevin belongs to Team Lakay, a Cordillera based MMA team that employs unique methods of training.
Kevin’s victory is also the triumph of his Ifugao community.
Kevin is proud of his roots.
Kevin has reached the summit to become ONE’s undisputed bantamweight champion.
A day before the fight, Kevin was busy training on the rooftop of his Singapore hotel.
Kevin won the heart of the crowd in Singapore escaping from the tight grip of his opponent several times during the match.
Days before the fight, Kevin displayed a steely determination to win.
Kevin, two days before the fight, struggling to drop to the 60 kilo limit of the bantamweight division.
Kevin says discipline is the key to being on top in MMA.
All photos courtesy of ONE Championship