Gina “Conviction” Iniong credits the power of love for much of her success.
The Filipina has cultivated her world-class skills at Team Lakay in Baguio City for years, and she is steadily climbing the women’s atomweight ranks in ONE Championship.
However, although her coaches and teammates have played a crucial role in her development, Iniong believes her fiancé, Richard Araos, has been a fundamental driving force for her.
“I think love is a very important part of being a martial artist, because it gives you something to fight for. It provides encouragement and motivation, and it pushes me to train harder and reach my potential,” the 29-year-old explains.
“When you fight for more than just yourself, that is when you begin to unlock your true potential. I am lucky to have Richard behind me, and supporting me through the good and bad times.”
Iniong’s love story began nearly a decade ago. Coincidentally, it was a martial arts event that brought the athlete and her beau together.
She was in the midst of launching her martial arts career when she first met Araos. Iniong was participating in a Muay Thai tournament, and following one of her matches, she came face-to-face with the strapping young man.
“I met Richard here in Baguio City. There was a Muay Thai contest which I was competing in, and he was in the crowd,” she recalls.
“After my fight, he came up to me and asked for a picture. We soon became friends and from there, we opened up communication.”
Over time, the two grew closer, and eventually, they started dating.
The pair shared a mutual attraction and had plenty of interests in common. Once they were together, they started to create many fond memories together.
They travel to explore other countries, visit museums to broaden their knowledge, and even challenge one another in sports. There is no one either would rather spend their time with.
“Conviction” believes fate brought them together. She feels lucky to have met her partner at one of the small, local martial arts competitions at home in Baguio City, where she still lives.
“I have been with Richard for a long time now,” she says.
“We have known each other for almost 10 years. I can say I am very fortunate to have found a partner in life who understands me and who I am, and more importantly, who I want to be. I am happy that we are taking the next step in our relationship.”
Earlier this year, they took their relationship to the next level and got engaged. The Team Lakay striker could not be any happier to know that she is finally settling down with the love of her life.
The couple were initially planning to wed this year, but Iniong’s sibling beat them to the punch.
“In Filipino culture, you cannot have siblings getting married in the same year,” she explains.
“We will wait for next year and see how it goes, but I am happy. This is going to be a very important part of my life, and it will represent a new chapter for me.”
While the happy couple wait to hear wedding bells chime, the latest, crucial chapter of her martial arts journey is about to begin.
On Saturday, 7 July, “Conviction” will clash with two-time Muay Thai World Champion and former ONE World Title challenger Istela Nunes at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS. It is a match-up at the very top of ONE’s atomweight division.
A victory at the Guangzhou Tianhe Gymnasium would further separate Iniong from the other contenders in the women’s atomweight division, and it could propel her to a future bout with the weight class’ reigning queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee – something she has wanted for a long time.
As “Conviction” navigates through her martial arts journey, she says she is extremely lucky to have a supportive partner like Araos by her side. He is willing to make sacrifices in order to help her achieve her dreams, and Iniong is forever grateful for his encouragement.
“One of the best things I love about him is that he is very supportive of me and what I want to achieve in my career,” the Filipina says.
“He takes really good care of me, and he even prepares my meals – especially when I am too busy with training. He told me that he will be by my side until I become the World Champion. That is our goal.”