Rajinder Singh “Knockout” Meena may have slipped in his ONE Championship debut, but now he has an opportunity to redeem himself against one of the best fighters in Asia.
The New Dehli, India, native will clash with former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario in a lightweight showdown at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION. The event takes place live on Friday Night, 2 December, at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“He is former featherweight champion and one of the best fighters. He will be a good opponent to fight,” the 30-year-old Indian says. “I will hope for the best.”
Banario, a cornerstone of the Team Lakay camp, is a wushu and BJJ specialist who holds a 10-6 record. Formerly the organization’s featherweight title holder, “The Rock” re-created himself as a lightweight earlier this year and has won two straight since moving up a division.
Although the Filipino has a wealth of experience, so does Meena. In fact, he is bringing a lifetime of experience with him to the cage.
The Crosstrain Fight Club product strapped up his first pair of boxing gloves as a child after seeing his older brother excel in the martial arts.
“I started my martial arts career with boxing during my childhood,” he says. “My brother was an international judo player, so my interest grew from that.”
He fell in love with the sweet science, but his interests in all things combat did not stop there. Despite fighting under the moniker “Knockout,” the Indian pugilist diversified his training long before training multiple disciplines was a requirement for MMA success.
“I started my boxing career in 1999, and participated in various state and national competitions,” he continued. “Later on, I started kickboxing, then went from kickboxing to wushu.”
Meena excelled at all of the aforementioned disciplines. He is a six-time Indian National Wushu Champion, a two-time Indian National Kickboxing Champion, and a multi-time boxing medalist. In 2009, he put all his skills together and made the jump to professional MMA.
That August, he made his official debut and lived up to his nickname by knocking out Ajay Godajkar.
“I felt proud when I won for first time,” he recalls. “The victory encouraged me to do my best in the future.”
Even though he spent two and a half years away from the sport, Meena returned with a vengeance in November 2011. After knocking out Dheeraj Walendra, he displayed his submission prowess and rattled off four consecutive guillotine choke victories, the last of which snared him the Super Fight League Lightweight Title.
Meena seemed unstoppable, but less than a year later, he tasted his first defeat as a professional courtesy of a second-round kimura and lost the belt. The loss exposed some holes in Meena’s game, which he quickly patched up.
He rebounded from the loss with a pair of quick, decisive victories, but it proved to be bittersweet. After the SFL shuttered its operations in India in 2014, ONE came calling and signed the promising star.
The New Dehli resident finally hit the big time and he knew it. He made his promotional debut in March 2015 at ONE: AGE OF CHAMPIONS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, against the hometown hero Peter Davis.
Between being in enemy territory and under the bright lights, the nerves may have gotten the best of him, as he suffered a first round TKO loss.
“That was my first experience in MMA at the international level,” he says. “I was a bit nervous due to the crowd. They were cheering for my opponent.”
Now, with the butterflies gone, Meena will attempt to bounce back and improve upon his 8-2 record when he meets Banario at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION this coming Friday Night.
While he admits there is a little bit of pressure, especially considering he will re-enter enemy territory, he feels refreshed from his recent layoff and is ready to thrill the masses.
“My fans can expect a better fight. They can watch me in a new style and be more energetic,” he says, before adding, “the best way to finish a fight is with a knockout.”
If Meena has his way, he will finally show ONE exactly why he is called “Knockout.”