Features

How Gina Iniong Became A Filipina Martial Arts Pioneer

February 13, 2019

As the leading women’s athlete from Baguio City’s Team Lakay, Gina “Conviction” Iniong is a martial arts role model in the Philippines.

This Saturday, 16 February, the six-time Philippine Wushu Champion aims to move one step closer to immortality and World Title contention with a victory over the undefeated Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan at ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS.

Ahead of her pivotal atomweight contest at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, discover how the 29-year-old became one of her nation’s most respected athletes.

Humble Beginnings In Baguio City

Team Lakay warrior Gina Iniong continues her quest to inspire women around the world on 16 February!

Team Lakay warrior Gina Iniong continues her quest to inspire women around the world on 16 February! Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends19

Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2019

Iniong grew up in Baguio City as one of 10 siblings – seven girls and three boys – in poor circumstances.

“We were poor. My parents couldn’t afford to send us to school,” she says.

“We went to school, but the others were unable to finish because we couldn’t afford it.

“Our parents used to sell plants as our main source of income. However, plants don’t sell well, so they decided to shift into selling keychains.

“My parents are no longer selling keychains now, but our eldest sibling is the one who decided to continue this livelihood.”

While she competes under the name of Iniong, “Conviction” reveals her birth surname is Pasigon, but she decided to adopt the first name of her grandfather, to follow in the footsteps of her father, who switched names when he was growing up.

“My dad used Iniong, my grandfather’s first name. My dad didn’t finish school,” she explains.

“Then, I don’t know, [people would] say the Pasigons are wealthy, so my dad decided not to use that last name and chose to use my grandfather’s first name instead. That’s why I’m using Iniong.”

Rising To The Challenge

What motivates Team Lakay's female phenom, Gina Iniong?

What motivates Team Lakay's female phenom, Gina Iniong?Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends19

Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

After boxing for two years at high school, “Conviction’s” coach was replaced by a member of Team Lakay.

That association eventually led her down the path to The Home Of Martial Arts.

“When I was about to graduate in high school, our coach changed. He was replaced by one of Coach Mark [Sangiao’s] students,” she explains.

“He then asked if I have plans to go to college. I said I would love to, but we lacked in the financial aspect. He then told me I should join Team Lakay because they have wushu scholarships.

“I was introduced to Coach Mark, and he said, ‘Compete in the nationals. If you manage to get gold, I will get you in.”

Iniong went on to claim the top prize gold and secured the wushu scholarship she needed to go to college.

She took a course in criminology so she could follow her dream of becoming a police officer like many of her relatives, but her coachability and rapid development led Sangiao to offer her a route into mixed martial arts, and she has never looked back.

“Coach Mark saw my potential and urged me to try,” she recalls.

“My first bout for mixed martial arts was in Baguio. It all continued and led me here to ONE Championship.”

Support From And For Her Parents

Gina Iniong DOMINATED in her ONE debut!

Gina Iniong DOMINATED in her ONE debut! Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends19

Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, February 3, 2019

Iniong’s parents were not initially thrilled to find out their daughter was pursuing a career in the cage.

“Of course, that’s normal for parents because they take care of their children,” she says.

“I once went home with a black eye – two actually. [My mother] wanted me to stop, but I am too hard-headed. Whatever I want, I’ll just do it anyway.”

Despite their reservations, when they saw their daughter compete, they came around to the idea, and her father is now one of her biggest fans.

“My father is supportive of me because he knows the feeling of competing. He was a boxer when he was younger, so he is very supportive of me from the beginning until now.”

However, ahead of her next bout, it is “Conviction’s” turn to support her mother. The family recently discovered she is seriously ill with stage 5 chronic kidney disease and have pulled together to help her out.

When Iniong steps into the cage in Bangkok, she will be inspired to succeed by her loved ones back home who are going through such a difficult time.

“When we found out about her condition, we were all shocked because it was so sudden,” she says.

“We provide her with whatever she needs. We’re all helping out so we can support her.

“For us, if you have a problem, we are there for you. No matter how hard it is, the whole family will be there to support you.

“I’m dedicating my upcoming bout to her and the whole family.”

Carving Her Own Path

On 16 February, Team Lakay's top female athlete Gina Iniong looks to pull off another highlight-reel win!

On 16 February, Team Lakay's top female athlete Gina Iniong looks to pull off another highlight-reel win!Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends19

Posted by ONE Championship on Thursday, February 7, 2019

Iniong is one of the few women in an otherwise all-male team at Team Lakay, but that has been no barrier to her rise through the ONE atomweight ranks.

She explains that she is not treated any differently because of her gender.

“We are like siblings in Team Lakay, and Coach is our father. If one has a problem, everyone is there to support that person. We help each other,” she says.

“I was told that during training, I should forget that I am a woman. I should think I am a man. When I’m outside the gym, that’s where I can be a woman, but if we are training, we must really train hard.

“In training, they don’t treat us like babies. My partner is a man. In sparring, my partner is a man as well. We don’t stop sparring even if my nose is bleeding. We continue until it’s over.”

In fact, the dynamic in the gym may actually work to her advantage when she competes against her peers.

“There are benefits to training with men. For instance, when you are going to fight with a woman, you are sure to overcome that because your partners in the gym are all men,” “Conviction” explains.

Iniong is also inspired by the success of her training partners – who won a record four ONE World Titles in 2018.

She adds that she wants to make proud those who have helped her on her martial arts journey by emulating their achievements – and that would be a first for a Filipina in the world’s largest martial arts organization.

“I get my strength to continue from seeing my teammates and my seniors with their belts,” she says.

“My ultimate goal is to also become a champion and Baguio’s pride. We don’t have a female champion yet, particularly in mixed martial arts.”

Filipina Pride

FROM THE ARCHIVES Relive Team Lakay warrior Gina Iniong's top 3 rounds in ONE!

FROM THE ARCHIVES Relive Team Lakay warrior Gina Iniong's top 3 rounds in ONE!Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends19

Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, February 9, 2019

Iniong is a proud Filipina. She hopes her performances inside the ONE cage can inspire others back home to pursue their dreams and experience the life-changing benefits of martial arts.

“I am proud to represent the Philippines in every fight because we give inspiration to our fellow countrymen who also want to fight – particularly those women who sent me messages saying, ‘How can I do this? How can I start mixed martial arts? I also want to be like you,'” she says.

“I am happy with what I’ve been able to achieve. Particularly because I am able to inspire other people. Especially other women.

“Even though this sport is male-dominated, women are still able to get in and achieve a lot.”

A win against Jihin at ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS will elevate her higher in the atomweight division and take her closer to a World Title shot.

If she is raised onto a platform like that Iniong can be sure her influence will grow even further.

Bangkok | 16 February | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super Apphttp://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Ticketshttp://bit.ly/onelegends19