Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon is only a few days away from potentially fulfilling his destiny.
This Friday, 27 July, the Filipino hero will courageously enter the cage to square off against ONE Featherweight & Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in the main event of ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
The winner of this explosive headlining tilt will leave the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, with another victory on their record, and the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title around his waist.
“Martin is the toughest challenge of my career, and I remain laser-focused on beating him,” the 30-year-old says. “If I can beat Martin, then I have beaten a two-division World Champion. That would be an amazing accomplishment.”
Now, just days away from their epic battle, Belingon talks about succeeding where his Team Lakay brothers fell short, how he feels his striking matches up with Nguyen’s, what winning the belt symbolizes, and much more.
ONE Championship: Both Edward Kelly and Eduard Folayang lost to Martin Nguyen in the past. In some ways, does this fight represent some sort of redemption?
Kevin Belingon: Although Martin was able to defeat two of my teammates, payback or revenge is not really a theme for me.
As a martial artist and as an elite athlete, we have to accept that this is a sport. There will always be a winner and a loser in every match. You win some, you lose some. That is the reality of it. We have to be good sportsmen. But this fight is different, of course.
It was tough to watch Eduard lose his [Lightweight] World Title to Martin. That one hit the team very hard. Now, I have the chance to erase that memory. I am doing everything I can so that victory can once again be ours.
I cannot wait to get inside that cage and just do my job. I know it is going to be tough, but I am prepared for this fight wherever it goes. Given both of our strengths, I know this is going to be an intense striking battle, but I am also ready to go to the ground, if needed.
I have been preparing my entire career for this moment. Now, it is time to just go out there and take care of business.
ONE: What do you think you can do differently, that both Edward and Eduard were not able to do?
KB: I have a different fighting style compared to Edward and Eduard.
For starters, I rely on my speed much more. I believe it is one of my greatest assets as a martial artist. Martin is no doubt a very powerful puncher, and anybody who gets caught with one of his right hands is surely going down.
I know I am not invincible, but with a sound game plan that me and the team have come up with, hopefully, we can avoid getting hit by those powerful right hands.
For me, I will stick to my strengths. I have the experience over my career where I have seen different styles of opponents. I know Martin’s style from watching a lot of his fights over and over. I have studied his techniques, and also his experience fighting Team Lakay.
Both Edward and Eduard have shared many of their observations with me, and I am grateful. This fight is going to come down to execution. I have to stick to the plan that me and my coach have come up with. Martin is a very intelligent fighter, and it will be a tough match-up, for sure.
ONE: How do you stack up against Martin in the striking department? Who is the better striker?
KB: Striking is obviously my number one strength, and I feel more confident in striking with Martin rather than going down to the ground. I also think my striking is better than his. But if it comes to it, we will go to a grappling war.
I have trained relentlessly with everyone in Team Lakay, working on my grappling, and submission and takedown defense. Every day, we drill constantly until everything becomes second nature to us. I am in top shape coming into this fight.
I think from a grappling perspective, we have about the same set of skills. He may be a little more offensive-minded than I am when it comes to the ground, but my defense is definitely up to par.
My main objective is to trade hands with Martin. It is more exciting, and it is going to be great for the fans. I do not expect this fight to go the distance. Given our finishing capabilities, this will not reach the final bell. Someone is going to get stopped, and I am going to make sure it is not me.
ONE: Do you think Team Lakay is one of the best martial arts teams in the world?
KB: Team Lakay is the best team in the world — not only because our skills are world-class and that our team produces World Champions, but also because we treat each other like family.
Everyone genuinely cares for each other like brothers and sisters. We look out for one another in and out of the cage. We share our victories and our defeats, and we learn from each other.
When Edward and Eduard both fought Martin, they shared with us their experience and observations. It is as if we all fought Martin, which is why I am super confident heading into this fight. I have the support of my entire team behind me, and I know they will all be in my corner on fight night.
ONE: How does the audience impact your performance when competing in Manila?
KB: Fighting at the Mall Of Asia Arena, in front of thousands of Filipino fans screaming, is a unique experience.
Every chant and cheer gives me strength — it pumps the adrenaline through my body, gets my blood boiling, and energizes me to the point where I feel untouchable. It really goes a long way in giving me the energy and confidence I need entering that cage.
But once the cage door closes, I know it is up to me to make everyone proud. That is when I fall back on the skills that I have worked on for years and months. All the hard work in training, all the sleepless nights and endless hours in the gym, every single roll, every punch taken and thrown, it all comes down to this.
I will step into that cage, and I will make everyone proud. I will show the world the Filipino fighting spirit.
ONE: Finally, what does winning the belt mean to you?
KB: Winning the belt is very important to me. It means everything. Watching my teammates Eduard Folayang and Honorio Banario win their World Titles, it has inspired every one of us. I want to feel what it is like to have that belt around my waist.
Also, being World Champion means I can inspire my people. All across the country, there are people who look up to us at Team Lakay, especially the youth. Young kids across the nation who grow up in poverty, they all dream big. When they see us on television, they come to believe that anything is possible.
When I was growing up, it was all about Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. I watched their films on TV, and I wanted to be like them. And then, of course, our national hero Manny Pacquiao came along. Pacquiao was my inspiration growing up as a young martial artist. I dreamed of representing the Philippines just as he did on the world stage. To follow in his footsteps, it is a dream come true for me.