Gina “Conviction” Iniong (5-2) has been a professional martial artist for the greater part of the last seven years. The six-time Philippines national wushu champion’s extensive experience has brought her from the boxing ring to the Muay Thai circuit and eventually to the ONE Championship cage, where she has chosen to pursue her dreams of becoming a world champion.
Soft-spoken and generally reserved, Iniong admits that it has been difficult adjusting to the spotlight. While the biggest stars relish their time in front of the cameras, the atomweight prefers to do her talking on the battlefield.
“Although I have been in this game long, I am still very shy. I do not think I will ever get used to talking to a large group of people. Speaking my mind and sharing my thoughts is a lot scarier than being inside that cage, that is for sure,” the 28-year-old laughs. “It is better to let my fists do the talking.”
Iniong is one of ten children born to loving parents in Baguio City, Philippines. She says her parents have both served as her greatest inspirations in becoming a martial artist, especially her father, who was a boxer in his younger days.
“Growing up, we were all very athletic children and we were all into sports,” she explains. “Some of my siblings trained in taekwondo, while I trained in boxing. But there was always some sort of sport we were getting into.”
The Filipina began training in boxing during high school, and after graduation, she discovered the art of wushu, for which she possessed natural talent. She was awarded a scholarship, and eventually completed her studies at Baguio Central University. Soon, she found herself competing on the national wushu scene, where she bagged a gold medal in her first tournament.
That is when legendary martial arts coach and mentor Mark Sangiao discovered Iniong, and encouraged her to give the professional ranks a try. At the time, Sangiao was already head of the most renowned martial arts stable in the country, Team Lakay, which is home to elite athletes such as ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario.
“When Coach Mark saw my skills, he recognized that I had the potential to become a professional martial artist. This is when he invited me to join Team Lakay and train under his watch,” she says. “I fell in love instantly, and knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
After dominating Philippine wushu, Iniong has made a seamless transition into the cage. The Filipina has won five bouts since her professional debut in 2010, including a split decision victory over former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi. Most recently, she enjoyed a dominant ONE debut against Natalie Gonzales Hills this past April.
On Friday, 10 November, in front of a home crowd in Manila, Philippines, Iniong steps back inside the cage for her second promotional bout at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, which takes place at the iconic Mall of Asia Arena. There, the Filipina atomweight is scheduled to meet Indonesian national sanda champion Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol.
“Conviction” believes the match could be seen as a stepping stone to a future shot at the world title.
“That is my ultimate motivation, to become world champion,” she states. “That is why I joined this organization, to showcase my skills and to prove to the world that I have what it takes to be the best. My opponent is a good striker, so I have no doubt that this will be an entertaining contest.”
The reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion is none other than “Unstoppable” Angela Lee, a 21-year-old Singaporean who is unbeaten after eight professional bouts, and known all over the world as one of the hottest martial arts talents in the game today.
Iniong would have no qualms about going into an immediate title shot against Lee should she be victorious over Gaol. As a matter of fact, she welcomes it.
“I will face whoever ONE Championship wants me to face. I am ready, anytime,” the Filipina declares. “But I have my eye on the champion, and I want that belt.”
Should the stars align, Iniong could face the winner of this potential “Bout of the Year” candidate.
“I am sure the Lee versus Yamaguchi matchup will be a treat for fans, and I am actually very excited to watch it myself. I love to watch the best compete, and in my opinion, Lee and Yamaguchi are two of the best,” the Filipina admits.
“Their first match was very exciting, and I am interested to see how their styles have developed since the last time they met. I am sure it is going to be another classic. Hopefully, I will get the chance to face the winner, but I welcome any challenge, whoever ONE wants me to face.”