Filipino fighter hopes to keep streak alive

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - – Staff

WHEN a mar­tial arts team gets some­thing good go­ing, no­body wants to be the one to mess it up. So when ONE Cham­pi­onship rolls into Thuwunna In­door Sta­dium on Oc­to­ber 7, 28-year-old Kevin Belin­gon will feel a heavy weight on his shoul­ders – Team Lakay, his rag­tag team of wushu san­shou prac­ti­tion­ers, has racked up 13 straight vic­to­ries in ONE Cham­pi­onship, and his bout with Ta­jik­istan’s Muin Ga­furov will put the streak on the line.

Train­ing in the high alti­tudes of La Trinidad, Benguet, of the Philip­pines, Team Lakay has quickly made a name for it­self on the ONE Cham­pi­onship fight­ing cir­cuit. Belin­gon’s team­mate, the un­de­feated 20-year old Joshua Pa­cio (8-0-0), will also fea­ture at the Oc­to­ber 7 fight in the evening’s main event: a Strawweight ti­tle match with cur­rent World Cham­pion Yoshi­taka “No­bita” Naito (11-0-0).

But it is Belin­gon (13-5-0) who has the most to prove, hav­ing dropped his last cage match in early Jan­uary when he chal­lenged reign­ing ONE Ban­tamweight World Cham­pion Bib­iano “The Flash” Fer­nan­des. Since then, he has been train­ing with big­ger spar­ring mates to pre­pare him­self for Ga­furov’s (10-1-0) dis­ci­plined ground game.

“Train­ing has been go­ing well. We’ve been work­ing a lot on our skills in wrestling and our grap­pling,” said Belin­gon. “I train mostly with my big­ger broth­ers Ed­uard [Fo­layang] and Hono­rio [Ba­nario] to pre­pare for a good wrestler in Muin Ga­furov.”

He’s joined up with the right guys: Since that Jan­uary loss, Team Lakay has been on a tear, win­ning 13 in a row in dom­i­nant fash­ion. Belin­gon says the weight of the streak won’t get to him, how­ever, as he re­mains fo­cused on the man be­fore him.

“We’ve all got big fights com­ing up and we are re­ally work­ing hard to show up on fight night with a good per­for­mance,” said Belin­gon.

Work­ing hard has meant a re­newed fo­cus on grap­pling, where Team Lakay has made some stark im­prove­ments over years past. Though Ga­furov’s strength is on the ground – and Belin­gon will surely strive to keep things stand­ing, where he is most com­fort­able – the Filipino in­di­cated that he is not wor­ried about get­ting down to the Ta­jik’s level.

“I be­lieve I have the edge in strik­ing and I want to ex­ploit that a lit­tle bit,” said Belin­gon. “But even if the fight goes to the ground, I be­lieve I can still man­age to hang in there with him.”

Photo: Supplied

Kevin Belin­gon, left, has been spar­ring with larger part­ners to pre­pare for his up­com­ing fight in Yan­gon against Muin Ga­furov.

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