After an unsuccessful title bid against reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes last November, former flyweight world title challenger Danny “The King” Kingad made a triumphant return to form last Friday Night.
The 22-year-old Filipino defeated battle-tested Bulgarian veteran Sotir “The Trouble” Kichukov in a catch weight affair at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He earned the unanimous decision nod after three rounds of intense action.
“Sotir was a very tough opponent. It certainly was not easy for me,” Kingad says. “Everyone expected me to either submit him or knock him out, but it was not as simple as that, because he is a great wrestler. It was a challenge to deal with his takedowns.”
It is clear Kingad learned from his loss to BJJ black belt Moraes, and incorporated those lessons into his victory over “The Trouble.”
The Filipino effectively mixed his brilliant wushu striking with solid grappling in the early going of the contest, and constantly found ways to stay on the offensive.
However, late in the bout, Kingad wound up in similar predicament that previously led to his downfall. The Bulgarian got on his back and fished for a rear-naked choke. This time, “The King” remained calm, and properly defended the submission.
“That is the beauty of experience. You understand where you are lacking, and then you can make adjustments. The way I was able to keep my composure and relax even when I was in a tight spot, I think that made a huge difference. I never panicked. I just listened to my coach,” he explains.
“Apart from our usual wrestling drills at Team Lakay, Coach Mark [Sangiao] also has us training our mental strength through meditation and breathing exercises. This has really helped me a lot to stay calm, especially when Sotir took my back.
“Aside from improving my martial arts skills, I now know the importance of training the mind. Keeping relaxed and calm is essential in every bout. You make less mistakes when you are mentally present.”
Though Kingad is admittedly a little banged up from his three-round war with Kichukov, he has already returned to Team Lakay and has started training for his next bout. The Filipino star wants to get right back in the mix. In fact, he would like to compete as early as the upcoming ONE: HEROES OF HONOR card in Manila this April, and he already has an opponent in mind.
“The King” was originally scheduled to face local hero Gianni Subba last week in Kuala Lumpur. However, the Malaysian was promoted to the main event bout opposite Reece McLaren, and Kingad subsequently met Kichukov instead.
Now, just days removed from the show, Kingad says he is keen to clash with Subba at some point in the near future, and that the two have already talked about a potential match-up.
“I still want to face Subba. I think he is a great competitor,” Kingad says. “We talked a little before the event. He apologized that he had to take the main event opportunity, but that he would also be open to facing me as well. He is a good guy, I respect him a lot.”
Previously, Sangiao, Kingad’s coach, revealed that challenging for the ONE Flyweight World Championship so early into his career placed an incredible amount of pressure on his pupil’s shoulders. That, along with a lack of self-confidence, caused the youngster to buckle.
However, it appears as if “The King” has rediscovered his swagger. He has reclaimed his confidence, and he feels better equipped on his second campaign towards the flyweight world championship.
“I feel so confident right now, like I am the best in the world. It always feels like this after a win. I love feeling like this,” Kingad continues. “I cannot wait to get right back in there and make another run at the title. I know things will be very different next time.”