At first glance, Danny “The King” Kingad is a quiet, unassuming 22-year-old Filipino. That all changes the moment the undefeated flyweight steps inside the ONE Championship cage and the doors lock behind him.
There, the tenacious Igorot warrior rears his head and channels a rough childhood filled with sadness and despair, and uses it to defeat the man standing across from him.
The Hard Knock Life
Growing up in Baguio City as the youngest of five children, Kingad’s parents had a difficult time finding jobs and maintaining a steady income. Although he was raised in a very loving environment, he admits it was tough.
“I grew up with a poor family, and it certainly was not easy growing up,” recounts Kingad. “There was not always enough food when your family could not find work.”
Despite living in poverty, Kingad enjoyed the simple luxuries afforded to him by Mother Nature, such as running, swimming, and hanging out at the beach with friends. For an adolescent with little in life, it was as good as it gets.
However, tragedy soon struck. When he was just 8 years old, his father passed away, and it still deeply affects the young Igorot.
“Losing my father was very difficult, because I cannot see him anymore,” Kingad says. “I get some of my motivation from the stories my mom tells me about my dad. My dad and I were very close when he was alive. I am very grateful that I still have my mom, and we are very close.”
After the untimely death, Kingad’s mother went to live with his sister. Meanwhile, Kingad moved in with his older brother and his family, which has been a blessing. In fact, his brother has been a constant source of inspiration, as he pushes Kingad to attend school, encourages him to go to the gym, and even helps him out financially to make sure he can make ends meet.
Though his world was flipped upside down as a child, it started to right itself during his teenage years.
Martial Arts Reformation
When Kingad was a sophomore at Pinsao National High School, he was a party animal who smoked and drank too much. It was at this time he was introduced to wushu by his cousin, who was also a very big influence on his development. The deeper he got into the martial art, the more it affected his life in a positive way, as it taught him self-control.
“My cousin wanted me to go to varsity, so I started to train incessantly,” Kingad states. “He is the reason I spend so much time training. I did a lot of running as well, to go along with my training in wushu.
“I really like how the art of wushu pushes you to discipline yourself. I desired to learn more about the techniques of wushu and to learn more about myself, as well. I needed discipline, because before wushu, my friends encouraged me to go to parties and drink alcohol.”
Kingad’s natural talent at wushu and his dedication to the art led him to the University Of Cordilleras, where he is fully entrenched as a member of the university’s team. Under the tutelage of famed Filipino coach Mark Sangiao, he achieved a milestone in 2015 when he won the Regional Wushu Championship.
While attending university and training, he learned about ONE Championship from some of his fellow teammates and his head coach. In addition to running the school’s wushu team, Sangiao also heads the celebrated Team Lakay, home to ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang and several top contenders in ONE Championship.
During training sessions, Kingad occasionally trained in grappling to expand on his skill set, and after seeing some of his peers find success in the cage, he was motivated to follow in their footsteps.
“I used wushu to help me with my discipline and I am now training in other martial arts, because it is a big motivation for me,” said Kingad. “I saw some of the seniors at school competing, and they are champions now. I wanted to become a champion too.”
Becoming the ONE Flyweight World Champion could very well be in his future. After all, since making his debut three years ago, he has compiled a perfect 8-0 record. The Igorot warrior is indeed a contender, and with youth on his side, he will only get better. More importantly, he understands he has a very bright future, and can accomplish a lot of his goals just by working hard and staying positive.
Although he is only 22, Kingad has experienced the dark side of life and gained a tremendous amount of wisdom at such a young age. The little boy who lived in poverty, lost his dad as a child, and partied excessively as a teenager has overcome a rough past, and now he is on the verge of achieving global glory.
Being surrounded by his family and teammates has given this future hero a source of inspiration that will undoubtedly carry him through the next phase of his life.
“The biggest hope I have for the future is to help my family,” an excited Kingad says. “I want to get closer to God and help my friends and family who are suffering. I also want to help my brother as a way to pay him back for the support he has given me.”
World Title Glory Beckons
On 10 November, in front of his home crowd in Manila, Kingad faces the toughest test of his career. Featuring in the co-main event of ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, Kingad faces reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes (16-2) for the coveted title.
It is the Filipino’s first shot at a world championship, and one that he says he is ready to tackle head-on.
“This has been my dream for such a long time. All the opponents I have faced, even early in my career, have brought me to this moment. It is my biggest match ever,” Kingad says. “All my experience has led me to this. It is the next step in my time as a professional. Every athlete dreams of becoming a world champion, and now I have the opportunity.”
Kingad has shown incredible skills throughout his young career. Since signing with ONE Championship in 2016, “The King” has impressed with some dazzling performances.
A pair of quick first-round victories over Malaysia’s Muhamad Haidar and fellow countryman Eugene Toquero introduced the world to what Kingad is capable of. However, it was not until his most recent contest this past April that Kingad was truly tested.
“Muhammad Aiman gave me my toughest test. I honestly thought he had me at one point,” says Kingad, who recalled nearly being finished in the third round when Aiman caught him in a triangle choke.
“I just stayed calm and remembered what we practiced in training, and I was able to escape and survive. It was a learning experience for me and an eye-opener. I know Moraes will be 100 times as skilful on the ground, so I cannot get caught in a situation like that.”
The Team Lakay standout would go on to earn a unanimous decision against Aiman, and that opened up the possibility of challenging for the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
“I did not think it would come so soon, but I am here now, and I have to face this whether I am ready or not. Some of the greatest world champions in sports faced their biggest challenges far before they were ready, and it brought out the best in them,” Kingad explains.
“I live for these ‘dare to be great’ situations, and I will bring my best to the cage on 10 November. Whatever happens, I will leave it all in there, and give the performance of a lifetime. Moraes and I are going to war, and I’m stepping onto the battlefield as a soldier of destiny.”
Manila | 10 November | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends17