Debuting with ONE Championship in 2012, the Team Lakay veteran has been wowing crowds with his exciting style for years, in which he has faced the bantamweight division’s elite. The 30-year-old has also performed in some of Asia’s largest stadiums in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, even headlining a show in Changsha, China.
All of this is a far cry from where he began. Belingon is more familiar with hills, forests, and rivers than he is with huge stadiums filled with roaring fans, but his passion for martial arts has paved the way for all of these new experiences.
“I grew up in a small village,” he reveals. “My father is a farmer, my mother is a teacher, and I have three siblings.”
The Filipino does not tell a tale of toil and hardship. Instead, he remembers his childhood fondly. That was a much simpler time, when nature and good friends were all he needed.
“My life was like an adventure, because I used to hang out with my friends, and we would always go fishing, hunting, and swimming at the river banks every weekend. Sometimes, I would help my father in the rice field.”
That was not all. In the Ifugao region where Belingon was raised, the traditional wrestling style of bultong was their game of choice on the playground, and this was his first taste of martial arts, albeit informally.
What really motivated him, like many youngsters all over the world, were the martial arts films of Bruce Lee. Lee espoused a form of cross-training and open-mindedness in martial arts way before anybody else, and it is no surprise that his ideas were the starting point of many great warriors.
“I used to watch all the Bruce Lee movies when I was a kid, and he inspired me so much that every time I played bultong with my friends, I would always try what Bruce was doing in his movies,” said Belingon.
It was not until “The Silencer reached the age of 17 and started college that he began his formal martial arts training. He found wushu with Sangiao in Baguio City, even before Team Lakay was officially formed. When the team came to being in 2006, Belingon was one of the first representatives of that now-famous wushu style when he made his professional debut a year later.
However, a life in combat sports was not his original goal when he enrolled in the University Of The Cordilleras over ten years ago. He studied and completed his degree in Criminology, all while working hard to hone his martial arts skills. Far from seeing his studies as time wasted though, Belingon believes it is one of the greatest assets he has in life.
“My ambition was to become a police officer, so I went to a university. But after graduating and passing the board examination, I pursued my martial arts career,” he explains. “I came from a place where few people went to university, so for me, education is a treasure that is never lost. It is the same with martial arts, because I always have them forever.”
Amassing a perfect slate of 9-0 between 2007 and 2011, there was a clear aptitude for martial arts and competition that the Baguio City native possessed. Though he was still learning his trade, ONE recognized his ability and appeal, and he has been a regular fixture in the organization ever since.
“The Silencer” had the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s top names before getting his shot at the world title. A first-round defeat to long standing ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes in January 2016 still leaves a sour taste in the Filipino’s mouth, but consecutive victories over Muin Gafurov, Toni Tauru, and Reece McLaren have put him on the track to redemption.
Beyond the hard work and the hunger to achieve his own personal greatness, he chalks all of his success to one thing: discipline.
“For me,” Belingon says, “it is the number one weapon of an athlete or martial artist.”
If discipline is the key to Belingon’s success as of late, the young stalwart certainly appears to be more focused than ever. His last three victories in the cage have come in impressive fashion, especially his most recent triumph — a 62-second knockout of former world title challenger McLaren.
With the thunder in his fists, he has obliterated everything in his path. To the Baguio City warrior, all roads lead to one thing – another date with destiny, and another shot at the ONE Bantamweight World Championship.
“I feel like my time is here, now more than ever before. I am strong and ready to face whatever challenge is in front of me, and if I can get that title shot, I know I will show much more of myself this time around,” he says.
At ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila on Friday, 10 November, Belingon is scheduled to clash with Korean-American hotshot Kevin “Oldboy” Chung. Despite competing in front of his hometown crowd as a slight favorite, “The Silencer” is not taking Chung lightly, and believes his performance will have to speak volumes if he hopes to fight his way back into title contention.
“I have to continue to give my best and give the fans a pleasing match. I know everyone is craving for action, and I will bring it to my opponent. [Chung] is a tough guy, but with the right game plan, I know I can handle him,” Belingon says.
“We are working very hard in camp and the bout is near. When the lights go out and the cage door closes, I am back where I belong. Fans will not be disappointed.”