Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (17-5) is approaching a pivotal moment in his martial arts career.
The Filipino, who is riding a magnificent four-bout win streak, desperately wants a second crack at the ONE Bantamweight World Championship, and believes he can achieve that if he secures an all-important victory in his upcoming bout.
On Friday, 20 April, Belingon will meet another former world title challenger in Andrew Leone (8-3). The classic striker versus grappler matchup is the main event of ONE: HEROES OF HONOR at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Although the headlining affair has not been announced as an official bantamweight world title eliminator, it certainly has the feel of one.
“I know what’s at stake here, and I know I have to beat Andrew Leone to get another shot at the title,” the 30-year-old Filipino says.
“I have to continue to give fans what they want, and to leave nothing to chance. Hard work will pay off soon enough. The title is within reach. I will beat Andrew Leone, and continue my march towards the belt.”
Belingon is confidently surging towards the bantamweight world title now, but there was a time when he was not prepared for such a prestigious opportunity.
In January 2016, “The Silencer” challenged ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for the coveted title at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS (CHANGSHA). He was not the complete martial artist he is today.
The Baguio City, Philippines-based competitor was a phenomenal striker out of the famed Team Lakay, but was unable to showcase that immaculate stand-up prowess.
Belingon was taken to the ground by Fernandes just seconds into the contest, and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt methodically attacked with masterful grappling until finally submitting Belingon via kimura with a minute left in the opening stanza.
That loss made Belingon open his eyes.
“Simply put, I was not ready to compete for the title back then. There were a lot of things that I still needed to learn,” he admits.
“It felt awful to lose like that, after all the hard work I had put in to reaching that point. I made some crucial mistakes. After the bout, there was nothing I wanted more than to get right back in there with him, and do things differently.”
With that in mind, Belingon, and his head coach, Mark Sangiao, started to shake things up.
Sangiao identified the weaker spots in the game of Belingon, and the team as a whole, and quickly made it a priority to concentrate on improving their wrestling and jiu-jitsu. The members of Team Lakay even received additional training in Manila with John Baylon.
This served especially beneficial to “The Silencer,” who could equip himself with the necessary skills to nullify an opponent’s grappling, and keep the match upright so he could display his world-class striking.
“I did not have that much experience on the ground,” he says. “But after working on my wrestling and grappling over the past couple of years, I have really improved. Because of this improved grappling, my striking can be showcased even more.”
Since that fateful night in China two years ago, Belingon has embarked on an impressive run, as he has obliterated the top-level opposition in his path.
He made a thunderous return to the cage in October 2016 with a unanimous decision victory over Muin Gafurov, and then scored a pair of destructive first-round knockouts over fellow former world title challengers Toni Tauru and Reece McLaren in 2017. He capped off the year with a thorough routing of Kevin Chung in November.
Now, it appears Belingon is on solid footing. He is unlocking his true potential, and has seemingly hit his stride. And, if he can defeat another former world title challenger in Leone, a bantamweight world title shot could very well be in his immediate future.
“I am ready to face the champion. I am ready, more than ever,” he says.
“Becoming world champion has been my goal from the very beginning when I first started this. That has not changed, [and that] is why it is important I win my next match, to keep that dream alive.”
It may have taken him two years to reach this pivotal moment in his career, but Belingon is now ready to unleash his true greatness.