Last Friday, 27 July, the Filipino superstar edged out two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in the main event of ONE: REIGN OF KINGS to win the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title.
The competitive five-round affair at Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena in the Philippines saw the Team Lakay veteran shrug off the Vietnamese-Australian’s takedown attempts, and connect with the cleaner, harder strikes.
His blistering speed was the key weapon in defeating the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion, and led Belingon to a unanimous decision victory, and most importantly, the gold.
The 30-year-old, however, was quick to give Nguyen his due.
“I have faced many difficult opponents throughout my career, but I think Martin is among the toughest opponents I have ever faced,” the Filipino said, after his epic win.
“He has good power in his right hand, and he has good timing. I could take his right hand, but I was also more careful in there than I usually am. You cannot play around with a guy that dangerous.”
As “The Silencer” sat inside his hotel room in Manila’s City Of Dreams, he was surrounded by his coach Mark Sangiao, his Team Lakay stablemates, and several fans who made the four-hour trip from Baguio City to the nation’s capital to support their hero.
With the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title clutched in his arms, Belingon explained to his comrades how difficult it was to defeat Nguyen.
The Filipino admitted he was cautious, but he tried his hardest to leave the cage with the KO. It was not meant to be, however, as “The Situ-Asian” proved to have elite defense, a granite chin, and a high cage IQ.
“Because [Nguyen] is so smart and such an intelligent fighter, it was difficult to knock him out,” the humble warrior says.
“I also hit him cleanly a few times, and he took it very well. He is tough, and his defense is excellent. He is truly a world-class fighter, and I can understand why he is a two-division World Champion.”
In addition to capturing his first World Title, Belingon also punched his ticket for a rematch against the last man to defeat him – ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes.
Since falling to the Brazilian via submission in the first round of their January 2016 World Title clash, “The Silencer” has wanted nothing more than to secure a rematch, and challenge him for the belt again.
However, both he and Sangiao knew it was not going to be easy to earn a second meeting with Fernandes.
The pair worked tirelessly in developing Belingon’s skill set at a rapid pace. They upgraded his wrestling and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which was not good enough to compete with the most dominant World Champion in ONE history in January 2016.
His results since then have shown their hard work over the past two and a half years has paid off.
Now, Belingon finds himself on an incredible six-bout win streak against some of the bantamweight division’s toughest athletes.
If grappling was Belingon’s weakness before, it isn’t anymore, and he feels ready to redeem himself against one of the best mixed martial artists in the world.
“I have faced many tough opponents leading up to this interim title, and I believe I have earned my spot to face Bibiano again,” he says.
“I am looking forward to our rematch. No more detours – Bibiano should be next, and I fully expect to be facing him soon.”
The rematch with Fernandes is indeed next on the agenda, when the Brazilian recovers from his injury.
The Igorot warrior also has a few minor knocks to heal, but fans can expect a showdown later this year to determine the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
Belingon feels his journey to this point has been worthwhile, and now that he has a belt around his waist, he wants to unify the World Titles, and redeem himself from the setback he experienced two and a half years ago.
“Right now, I am just focused on resting and healing my body. I am pretty banged up. My ankle and shin are bruised, and they need time to recover,” he says.
“Once everything is good to go, then I will be back in training. But for now, I am going to enjoy the rest. It still has not sunk in that I am a World Champion.
“Until I beat Bibiano, [however], I will always feel like there is unfinished business to take care of.”