ONE Championship’s bantamweight division is teeming with talent, and the goal for every athlete competing in the bustling weight class is to topple seemingly infallible ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (21-3).
Ever since becoming interim titleholder and then undisputed champion in 2013, the Brazilian kingpin has ruled over the division with an iron fist.
Fernandes has defeated every hero who has challenged for the prestigious belt, including Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (15-5) back in January 2016. In their bout, the champion brought the Filipino striker to the ground, and was able to submit him via kimura at the 4:04 mark of the first round.
“I was not prepared to face him on the ground,” Belingon admits. “But this time, I think I am ready to face him again.”
The 29-year-old desperately wants another crack at dethroning the king, but first, he must defeat another top contender. On Friday, 18 August, he will square off against Australia’s Reece “Lightning” McLaren (9-4) at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, which takes places at the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Following his title loss, Team Lakay’s Belingon has thought of little else other than improving and working his way back to the top. Now, with impressive back-to-back wins over Muin Gafurov and Toni “Dynamite” Tauru, he is feeling positive ahead of this pivotal clash with McLaren.
“My training is going well, and I am improving every day,” the Baguio City native reveals. “For me, it is always the best and happiest day every time I am in the gym.”
Belingon has also found inspiration in the form of his teammate and mentor, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang. “The Silencer” saw Folayang become the ONE Lightweight World Champion firsthand last November as a cornerman, when the Filipino hero defeated martial arts legend Shinya Aoki for the coveted strap.
That has motivated him even more, as well as all the momentum Team Lakay’s warriors have been building. “Having champions and successful athletes in the gym have inspired me to work harder until I reach my goal, which is to become the bantamweight champion.”
The Filipino’s technical, but pinpoint dismantling of Finnish submission specialist Toni “Dynamite” Tauru, at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in April, showed just how dangerous he can be.
Belingon always possessed the power to finish opponents, but it was the grappling prowess of Fernandes that was his kryptonite the first time they met. Against another grappler in Tauru, he showed a more measured game and better control of his range, displaying the lessons he learned from the loss.
McLaren will prove to be a test, as the man called “Lightning” came closer to causing an upset than any before him when he dueled Fernandes in December at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION. The Aussie displayed a well-rounded skill set of dynamic grappling and fierce stand-up, but ultimately lost a split decision after five hard rounds.
If “The Silencer” can make a statement over McLaren in Kuala Lumpur, he knows it will only strengthen his chances of a Fernandes rematch. It will not be easy, however, as the motivated Aussie is an extremely durable opponent, who also feels he deserves a second opportunity to become the world champion.
“McLaren is tough and a complete martial artist,” Belingon acknowledges. “I think this is going to be a tough and exciting match. I think a win over Reece will be my way to the title shot, and I am aiming for that.”