IN the aftermath of his conquest of the ONE Championship world bantamweight title last November, Filipino Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon knew that he had not seen the last of erstwhile champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes of Brazil; that their paths would cross anew.
Which is why when ONE announced that he would defend his title against the Brazilian on March 31 in the promotion’s first-ever event in Japan, dubbed “A New Era,” Mr. Belingon was no longer surprised even as he said that he is ready to meet his rival for a third time.
“I had a feeling I would be defending my title against Bibiano again,” said Mr. Belingon, who is already deep in his training and is set to leave for Japan early next week for his title defense.
“It was inevitable given how close the last bout was. I don’t mind. I’m excited and willing to prove myself once again,” he added.
Team Lakay stalwart Belingon hacked out a narrow split-decision victory over Mr. Fernandes in their clash in November in Singapore to seize the bantamweight title.
It was also a huge payback on the veteran Fernandes, who defeated Mr. Belingon via a first-round submission (kimura) in 2016.
The Filipino champion said he used that defeat as motivation in their second encounter and is looking to have the better of Mr. Fernandes in the third fight of their trilogy.
“I know this is going to be the toughest bout of my career. I have prepared well for him again. I think I know him very well now. It’s going to be a tough fight,” said Mr. Belingon.
He is also banking on the support of his teammates as well as the entire nation as he flies the flag of the Philippines once again.
“ONE: A New Era” takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo and will be headlined by the ONE world lightweight title clash between champion Eduard Folayang of the Philippines against Japanese challenger and former champ Shinya Aoki.
Co-headlining it is the champion-versus-champion battle between women’s strawweight world champion Xiong Jing Nan of China and women’s atomweight champion Angela Lee of Singapore for the former’s belt.
Also part of the card is the middleweight world championship collision of champion Aung La N Sang of Myanmar against Ken Hasegawa of Japan.
A New Era will see the ONE debut as well of mixed martial arts legends Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez in separate grand prix matches with Filipino flyweight Danny Kingad also set to see action. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo