Features

How Mei Yamaguchi Made Gina Iniong A Better Martial Artist

July 05, 2018

Gina “Conviction” Iniong had an important change to make.

She is a six-time Philippine Wushu Champion who marvelously applied her world-class striking skills to mixed martial arts competition. That was on full display when she impressively won her first two ONE Championship bouts.

However, after her unanimous decision loss to Japanese veteran Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi in November, she acknowledged a hole in her overall skill set that needed to be filled.

Following that setback at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, the Baguio City, Philippines native reevaluated her career.

In order to become a better martial artist and one day challenge for the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship, she realized she had to enhance her grappling.

“After I lost to Mei, it was a wake-up call for me,” the 29-year-old Filipina says.

“I had dreams of fighting for the title, but as my grappling skills proved insufficient, I knew I had to make a change.

“I dedicated my time and effort to improve my wrestling and jiu-jitsu. It was a decision I had to make, and one that I continue to make in training while preparing for my next bout.”

Both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling had been perceived as areas of weakness for the athletes of Team Lakay, but head coach Mark Sangiao made it a priority to turn their vulnerabilities into strengths.

The work Iniong and her stablemates at the Baguio City facility have put in has already paid off.

In April, Iniong faced former ONE World Title challenger Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in Manila.

The Filipina was fearless in her attack. Not only did she dominate Huang in the striking department, she also bested the black-belt judoka in grappling exchanges. In fact, it was the Team Lakay product who initiated the takedowns to take the contest to the mat.

After three rounds of action, Iniong emerged with her hand raised, and made a huge statement in the process.

“Going to the ground with a talented and dangerous grappler like Jenny was a risk I was willing to take – if only to prove to myself that my hard work in training was paying off,” she says.

Iniong will have a chance to display her hard work again at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS this Saturday, 7 July. She is scheduled to clash with former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger Istela Nunes.

The Brazilian is best-known as a two-time Muay Thai World Champion who will undoubtedly test the wushu stalwart’s striking ability, but she is also a strong grappler. Apart from her natural strength in the clinch, she also possesses a dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu base.

However, the Baguio City resident has continued to hone her craft in the weeks leading up to this atomweight contest, and will once again look to showcase her improvements in all areas.

“We have a great game plan ready for this next fight. I am very fortunate to have an amazing team supporting my development, and making sure I go in there with confidence,” she explains.

“Coach Mark has put together a sound strategy that will put me in the best position to win. It is going to be an exciting fight, and I cannot wait to test my skills once again.”

For “Conviction,” this is a pivotal bout.

ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee has defeated every top contender in the weight class. She feels like she has cleared out the division, and already has set her sights on strawweight gold.

However, Iniong presents a fresh match-up for the reigning atomweight queen, and if the Filipina can defeat a second consecutive former World Title challenger, then it may convince ONE matchmakers to grant her a World Title opportunity.

“This fight against Istela is extremely important. I need to prove that I belong in the title conversation. I need a statement-making victory,” the Filipina says.

“It has always been my goal to compete for the World Title here at ONE Championship, and I feel I am very close to achieving that.”

The hours of sacrifice Iniong has placed into developing her craft have been worthwhile. No matter if the bout stays standing or goes to the ground, she is now well-equipped to handle any situation.

Guangzhou | 7 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super Apphttp://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast