MANILA, Philippines -- Filipina fighter Gina Iniong is getting the itch to fight again, but knows that she has to take things slow after a year and a half away from the ONE Circle.
Iniong, who won a kickboxing gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, got married to her partner Richard Araos last year and gave birth to her baby daughter.
It was a life-changing experience for the 32-year-old Iniong, but even as she embraces motherhood, she still wants to pursue her mixed martial arts career.
Iniong had racked up some impressive performances in ONE Championship before the COVID-19 pandemic. Ahead of her gold medal triumph in the SEA Games, she earned a split decision win over "Shadowcat" Hayatun Jihin Radzuan of Malaysia at ONE: Clash of Legends in February 2019.
She followed it with a superb unanimous decision victory over "Knockout Queen" Asha Roka of India at ONE: Fire & Fury in January 2020.
Her performance in those last two fights allowed her to move up to No. 5 in ONE's women's atomweight rankings before her inactivity bumped her off of the list.
"I've been out for a while so I need some time to get back in fight form. As of now I'm taking it one day at a time. I want to be fully prepared when I come back," said Iniong, who fights out of the famed Team Lakay camp in Baguio City.
While she's still working her way back to full fitness, Iniong is keeping a close watch on her division -- especially with the highly anticipated ONE Atomweight Grand Prix coming up.
Among the participants are: No. 1-ranked Denice "The Menace" Zamboanga of the Philippines, No. 2 Meng Bo of China, No. 3 Alyona Rassohyna of Ukraine, No. 4 Stamp Fairtex of Thailand, No. 5 "Arale Chan" Seo Hee Ham of Korea, as well as Itsuki "Strong Heart Fighter" Hirata of Japan and Alyse "Lil' Savage" Anderson of the United States.
"I'm excited to see all the best atomweights compete with each other. I'm also amazed at how the division has grown," Iniong said.
"I don't really have anyone in particular that I have my eye on, but of course, I want to stay ready for anyone that will be put against me," she said.
This includes reigning ONE atomweight champion Angela Lee of Singapore, who is also on maternity leave.
Ultimately, Iniong wants to make sure that she returns in the best possible shape and ready to pick up where she left off in ONE Championship.
"I am a better Gina Iniong. I am now focusing on being more mentally tough and getting back in fight shape and condition," she declared.