Gina Iniong Has No Problem Facing Mei Yamaguchi on Short Notice

Barely two weeks removed from a spectacular performance at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, Filipina striker Gina “Conviction” Iniong (6-2) is set to step right back into the cage this Friday night.

The Team Lakay standout squares off against Japanese top contender Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi (16-10-1) in a three-round atomweight encounter at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT. The bout takes place on the main card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 24 November.

“Coach Mark (Sangiao) broke the news to me, and told me that I had the chance to face Yamaguchi next in Singapore,” the 28-year-old Baguio City, Philippines native recalled. “‘Seize the moment’, he told me, casually. I agreed, and Coach Mark said this was a huge opportunity for me.”

Iniong had a dominant showing against Priscilla Hertati Lumbangaol at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November in Manila, as she stopped the Indonesian warrior via TKO at the 2:12 mark of round two.

Lumbangaol, an Indonesian Sanda Champion who is equipped with solid striking and grappling skills, failed to mount any effective offense against Iniong, who had covered all bases.

“I was not hurt,” Iniong said. “After the bout, I felt great. There are no injuries, and thankfully, I did not get hit a whole lot, so I am still fresh. Taking this bout on short notice should be no problem for me, since I am still on weight and still in competition shape.”

Because Yamaguchi’s original opponent, reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee, had to pull out of the event’s headlining spot due to injury, Iniong was tasked to fill in on short notice.

In fact, the two have faced each other before, back in March 2014 in a smaller promotion. Iniong took a close, three-round split decision for her efforts. In the upcoming rematch, however, Iniong expects Yamaguchi to be a completely different martial artist.

“She [Yamaguchi] has improved a lot since the last time I shared the cage with her. She has amazing stamina, endurance, and techniques. She is a complete martial artist,” Iniong said.

“All martial artists, as long as they are consistent with training, can improve their skills. Yamaguchi has definitely gotten much better over the past three years.”

Though “Conviction” stresses that Yamaguchi is incredibly powerful, and a strong competitor, she believes she has what it takes to win. And with title implications on the line, the Filipino warrior is willing to do whatever is necessary to emerge victorious in one of the biggest matches of her life.

“This bout is really important to me, to my career,” Iniong explained. “I am driven by my goal to become champion. Since joining ONE Championship, I have had my eye on facing Angela Lee, and I would not be deserving of a shot at the title if I cannot defeat Mei Yamaguchi. I have to win on Friday night.”

Iniong has an incredible chance to jump the queue, and move one step closer to fulfilling her goal at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT. If she can indeed defeat Yamaguchi, and in impressive fashion, the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship could have a new challenger in waiting.

When Yamaguchi challenged Lee in May 2016 for the inaugural world title, it was a high-octane, extremely technical, and thrilling affair. The tilt bagged multiple Bout Of The Year” honors from various publications all across the globe.

However, with Lee in recovery mode, Iniong has stepped up to the plate, and she has an opportunity to sweep this title shot right from underneath Yamaguchi.

“I am not underestimating Yamaguchi by any means. To do so would be a terrible mistake, even if I am familiar with her style. Having faced her before does not matter now. This is a completely different matchup,” Iniong stated.

“If I can beat Yamaguchi, I hope to get a shot at the title, but that is up to ONE Championship. I am willing to do whatever is necessary, and if that means I need to keep winning, then I will keep winning.”