Filipino fighter hopes to keep streak alive
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.”
Kevin Belingon, left, has been sparring with larger partners to prepare for his upcoming fight in Yangon against Muin Gafurov.