Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon knows he is in the deep end of the bantamweight shark tank.
The Filipino hero is riding a four-bout win streak, which includes a pair of knockouts over two former world title challengers. On Friday, 20 April, he plans to extend that win streak to five, and knock out a third former world title challenger in Andrew Leone at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR.
If “The Silencer” could put the Bali-based American away in front of all his countrymen at Manila’s Mall Asia Arena, then he could quite possibly earn the title rematch against ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes that he so desperately craves.
ONE Championship: We are almost a week out from your main event bout with Andrew Leone. How are you feeling about everything right now?
Kevin Belingon: Every time I step into the cage, I am not just looking for victory. I am also looking to put on a show for all the fans who took time out of their busy schedules to come and watch me perform. I feel very strong and confident right now, having won my last four bouts. But I know that every bout from this point on will be more and more difficult, as the level of opponents keeps getting higher.
Aside from Bibiano Fernandes himself, I believe Andrew Leone is a worthy opponent, and he will be one of the toughest guys I will ever face. He has many strengths, and very few weaknesses, and I will need to be in the best shape possible in order to give a good performance.
ONE: What did you think about the historic bantamweight world title match between Bibiano Fernandes and Martin Nguyen?
KB: I thought it to be a very exciting contest. It was extremely close. Martin scored early in the opening rounds, with that big right hand, and beautiful boxing. But Bibiano started to pick up the pace in the later rounds – the championship rounds. I think that is what made the difference in the bout.
Bibiano was able to show the judges that he wanted it more, even as both men were exhausted. He just wanted it more, and showed the true heart of a champion who never gives up. Martin is a tremendous martial artist, but it was not meant to be just yet.
ONE: Let’s talk about your bout with Andrew. What have you been working on?
KB: I have worked intensively on my grappling. I know Andrew is a very good wrestler and grappler, so I have to be careful and strategic in this bout. My striking will always be my biggest advantage, and I would like to showcase that some more in this bout.
The work we have put in at Team Lakay, especially with our wrestling and grappling, is going to be useful in this match-up. Coach Mark is guiding the team in improving all areas of our skills, and grappling is one of the main focus points. As martial artists, we must always seek improvement every single day – whether that is making our striking a lot tighter and more compact, or enhancing the flow of our grappling. I am putting in the time with my training. I will give the best performance of my life on 20 April.
ONE: Being that Andrew is a grappler, what areas of his game do you think you will be able to exploit?
KB: I think I can really capitalize on Andrew Leone’s striking. I think that is really where I will have the advantage, so I want to exploit that a little bit. My game plan will definitely be to keep the action standing.
I know how capable of a grappler he is, and it will be difficult if we hit the ground. I have to try to keep it on the feet, and test his striking. Luckily, my team and I have worked immensely on my takedown, and submission, defense. If the bout goes to the ground, I will be prepared.
ONE: You are on a four-bout win streak. How far away do you think you are from a world title shot?
KB: The title is within reach, I can see the path clearly. I have to keep winning. After winning four straight, I know every victory from here will bring me closer to my goal. I am ready for the title, but I will beat whoever ONE Championship puts in front of me. I will do my best.
I am proud to be in this organization, and showcase my skills and talent to a worldwide audience. I do not want to look past Andrew Leone, because he is a very dangerous opponent. I am focused solely on my next match. We will talk about the title after I beat Leone.”
ONE: What are your thoughts on the bantamweight division, as a whole?
KB: The ONE Championship bantamweight division is full of talented, and tough, athletes. It is one of the deepest divisions in the promotion. I have to always be on top of the game, because one mistake puts you back at the end of the line. Bantamweight is like one huge shark tank. Everyone is gunning for everyone, and we all want the title.
ONE: Do you feel any pressure to perform in front of your hometown fans?
KB: I do not feel any pressure at all performing in front of my hometown fans in Manila. In fact, it probably gives me more energy and strength knowing that I have the support of my friends and family, who are in close proximity. Team Lakay is doing exceptionally well right now, and I want to keep that going. I am going to do my absolute best to win my next bout.