Danny “The King” Kingad (9-1) has found his confidence again.
Following an unsuccessful challenge for the ONE Flyweight World Championship in November, which ended in his first professional defeat, the 22-year-old Filipino rebounded with an impressive victory over a battle-tested veteran four months later.
Now, he is looking to carry that momentum to his forthcoming bout on Saturday, 23 June.
The Philippine wushu champion will square off against Chinese national wrestling champion “The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin (11-2) at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, which broadcasts live from the Studio City Event Center in Macau.
“Training is, as usual, very tough. We are drilling very hard each and every day. I am still working on all areas, be it my striking or my grappling,” he explains.
“Knowing my opponent is a good wrestler, however, I am particularly working on my takedown defense for this match. I want to keep this fight standing, so I have worked very hard on my takedown defense.”
Over the past several months, the Filipino’s grappling has come under the microscope.
Last November, after rattling off three dominant victories since making his promotional debut in April 2016, “The King” earned the right to challenge reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila.
It was the biggest moment of Kingad’s young mixed martial arts career, but he admitted buckling under the pressure in front of a huge crowd in his home country. Nerves overcame the challenger, and he was submitted by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt via rear-naked choke in the first round.
Although he experienced the first loss of his career, the Igorot warrior refused to wallow in the sadness of defeat. His experience lit a fire under him. He was determined to find out where everything fell apart, and how he could make sure it would not happen again.
“I went home, watched the tape, and tried to analyze what I did good and what I did wrong. It was a good learning experience for me,” he says.
“I love studying – not just my opponents, but also myself. Whenever I discover weaknesses in my game, it makes me feel good, because then I know what to work on.”
Kingad continued to sharpen all of his tools in the months that followed, but he placed a premium on his wrestling and submission skills.
That paid off on his return to action.
In March, he faced Vietnam-based Bulgarian Sotir “The Trouble” Kichukov at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. “The King” effectively blended his renowned wushu striking with improved grappling to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Kingad corrected the errors he committed in his failed title bid, and got his career back on track by regaining the confidence that had eluded him during his most high-profile bout.
“Making mistakes is a blessing, because that is where you can focus your efforts and improve,” he explains.
“You never really lose a fight. There is always something to take away from it. When I am able to work on fixing my mistakes, that is where I gain confidence.
“The win over Kichukov really added a lot to my confidence, which was one of the things I was lacking in previous bouts. He was tougher than I thought he was going to be, which is great. I love tough challenges – they help me grow as a competitor.”
With that in mind, the young martial artist should be delighted with his next assignment.
He will get another tough challenge in Ma, a wrestling juggernaut out of China. Dubbed “The Southern Eagle,” he had made a successful mixed martial arts debut in January 2016 by submitting a pair of opponents – in a mere 1:35 combined – to become the ONE Changsha Bantamweight Tournament Champion.
While “The King” is always fine-tuning his striking, the focus in training camp has been placed on warding off his Chinese foe’s grappling advances.
If the Team Lakay stalwart can keep the action on the feet, then fireworks are sure to fly in Macau.
“I want to test his stand-up game. I believe I am stronger, faster, and more explosive than he is,” Kingad says.
“I am definitely going for a knockout in this match. Although, if he does take me to the ground, I will be ready for anything.”