On March 31st, Singapore-based martial arts organization ONE Championship will be making its highly-anticipate debut in the place many believe as the birthplace of martial arts, Japan.
In what is easily ONE Championship’s biggest and most-stacked fight card to date, A New Era, which takes place at the historic Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan, will feature 16 fights including a staggering four world championship bouts. In two of those world title bouts, a FIlipino will be defending his world championship.
Main eventing the card will be reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, who will be defending his title against Japan’s own Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, a former ONE champion himself, and without a doubt one of the most feared grapplers in the world.
Also defending his world championship will be reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who faces another former champion - the longest reigning champion in ONE history - in Brazil’s Bibiano “Flash” Fernandes. Like Aoki, Fernandes is a lethal grappler with years of experience.
Danny “The King” Kingad, the third Pinoy on the massive card, will also be competing in a crucial match, as he faces former Pancrase champion Senzo Ikeda of Japan in a ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix quarterfinal matchup. The winner advances into the semis and moves one step closer towards a shot at the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
With three representatives on the card, the Philippine is one of the more well-represented countries at ONE: A New Era, alongside the United States, and of course, Japan.
Making it even more special for these three Filipino warriors is the fact that they’ve definitely come a long way from their humble beginnings in the mountains of Benguet.
Folayang, Belingon, and Kingad are all part of the famed Team Lakay stable out of La Trinidad, and for them being able to take their talents to Japan, a country and a market so rich in martial arts history and pedigree, is nothing but an absolute honor.
“Siyempre masayang-masaya ako,” said Folayang, who has been fighting under the ONE banner since the promotion’s inception in 2011. “Since yung inauguration ng ONE Championship, andun tayo, and this time around, inauguration niya sa Japan, and andun tayo and nalagay pa tayo sa main event.”
For the 34-year Folayang, old who’s on his second run as a world champion in ONE, the the biggest point of pride comes from being able to represent the Tricolor in the biggest stage of martial arts in the world.
Folayang knows a thing or two about representing the Philippines well on the global stage, having won multiple medals in the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games as part of the Wushu National Team.
“It’s a very big honor for me na i-represent yung country mo on the biggest stage, and it makes you proud na ‘Uy, yung magme-main event sa pinaka-stacked card ng ONE Championship, coming from the Philippines. It gives a lot of pride for me, and honor.”
For the 31-year old Belingon, who captured the bantamweight crown just last November, the thrill lies in being part of such a historic event in such a historic setting.
“Ito yung pinaka-malaking event sa Japan, ito yung first event ng ONE sa Japan, para sa akin, very excited talaga ako kasi, yun nga, nasali ako sa malaking event na ito, tsaka first time ko na makapunta sa Japan.”
With such high stakes on such a big stage, Belingon knows that he needs to be on his A-game come fight night.
Against the former champion Fernandes, Belingon will be facing a man who went undefeated in for almost seven years and held the title for five years.
“Kailangan kong pag-handaan ng husto ito, para masaya lahat, maganda yung resulta,” he added.
For Kingad, the youngest of the three Team Lakay representatives, the excitement lies in being able to be on the same card as one of his idols.
Also competing in the flyweight tournament is former long-time UFC Flyweight World Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, who is set to make his highly-anticipated ONE debut after signing with the promotion late last year.
Johnson faces Japan’s Yuya Wakamatsu, who, fittingly enough, Kingad already defeated last year.
“Very big event talaga, maingay na event sa Tokyo, kasi it’s the first time na mangyayari sa Tokyo, and very excited ako sa Grand Prix na yan, lalong-lalo na andiyan si [Demetrious] Johnson, yung ini-idolo ko ngayon tapos nasa card siya doon, and nasa flyweight division siya,” the 23-year old standout said. “Very excited ako na mapanood siya and makita siya for the first time.”
For a young kid like Kingad, who started out as a spectator in Manila, being on the other side of the coin as the one being watched is still a surreal feeling.
“Nung nagsimula ako, nanonood lang ako sa MoA, nasa taas ako nun, sa upper box, tapos ayun, ganun lang yung nangyari, pinapanood ko yung mga athlete, yung mga fighters, tapos nung andun na, nagte-training na ako sa gym, tapos biglang, basta tuloy-tuloy lang yung training ko tapos hindi ko alam na ganito pala, hindi ko alam na ako rin yung pinapanood nila,” he shared.
Already a former title contender at such a young age, Kingad hopes to work his way back to the top of the flyweight ladder.
As proud as boys from Baguio are, there’s arguably nobody who should be beaming with pride more than Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao.
Sangiao has guided Folayang, Belingon, and Kingad to great success in ONE Championship, and it’s that success that has led to all three to competing in Tokyo on March 31st.
“Unexplainable, talagang happing-happy ako na tatlo yung lalaban sa ONE Championship sa Japan,” said the award-winning mentor.
“Nakaka-proud, and we’re very happy na ganyan yung career ng mga atleta natin ngayon.”
Of course, just being there is not the goal, The goal is to win and keep the belts in Baguio. The goal is to advance into the next round of the tournament. The goal is to continuously improve and that’s why, as proud as he is and as proud as he can be, there’s still work to be done.
“Pero that doesn’t mean na andito tayo, mag-stop na sila, or they are content with what they are doing. Patuloy parin tayo na nag-aaral, and we keep on improving.” Sangiao said.
“Sabi ko nga, sana manalo tayo dito at mai-prove natin sa buong mundo na we are one of the best in the world,” he added.
Catch ONE: A New Era on Sunday, March 31st, LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD channel 166, and livestreaming on https://sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/one, the ABS-CBN Sports Facebook Page, and on the iWant App!
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