When Team Lakay’s Danny “The King” Kingad was a child, he was the last person you would expect to become a world-class mixed martial artist.
His life changed when he discovered martial arts, and he learned about the values that were essential to walking the right path.
“Back then, I was really a troublemaker,” he admits.
“However, when I got into the gym, that’s when I learned how to respect others. When you respect your fellow man, you will be successful, and it will steer you away from harm.”
Lessons about how to conduct himself were taught alongside martial arts skills and techniques in the Baguio City gym.
Even now that “The King” and his teammates have become role models for their countrymen and combat sports fans around the world, their coach Mark Sangiao always reminds them about the things that shape them as athletes and figureheads in society.
“Every time we talk to each other, he shares and teaches us [respect],” Kingad adds.
“After every training session, we get in line, and he tells us how to salute our seniors and fellow gym mates.”
Sangiao does not just focus on how his students should be respectful, he is also determined for them to understand why.
Few athletes understand this more than Kingad. After the troubles of his childhood, he knows better than anyone what lies in store for someone who does not have respect for themselves or those around them.
“There are a lot of negative effects,” he says.
“They wouldn’t succeed in their career, and what’s worse is that the younger members [of the team] could follow his traits, which could lead them to the wrong path.
“It’s important to be humble, and shape the young minds properly.”
That is another lesson the 23-year-old has taken to heart.
Team Lakay cultivates leaders. Kingad was influenced by many of the senior members of the team – and still is. Now that he has developed into a successful competitor on the global stage for martial arts, he is held in high regard and has become a mentor for the junior martial artists around him as well.
It is a role he has embraced, and “The King” is committed to sharing the lessons he has learned with his peers in his own way.
“I was taught that people will learn from me through my actions and that I should share this value the same way that my coaches and my seniors have taught it to me,” he explains.
“However, how we teach will be totally up to us. Some of the seniors prefer to teach in groups, while I teach some younger members individually.”
Kingad led by example when he put his words into action last year.
As one of the top contenders in the division, he was one of the frontrunners to challenge for the ONE Flyweight World Title after building a three-bout win streak to close 2018.
However, his teammate Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio was the World Champion at the time, and the thought of challenging him never crossed his mind.
“We have to respect our seniors, and he is one of my seniors,” says “The King.”
“Not only that, he is also my brother, so it was never really an option to compete against him in the cage.”
Eustaquio would later concede the World Title to Adriano Moraes in the conclusion of their trilogy, opening the door for Kingad to make a run at the belt.
But first, he must win the highly-anticipated World Grand Prix, which kicks off in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March.
Even before the tournament brackets were announced, the Team Lakay standout looked forward to the opportunity to go up against the top contenders in the division, including Kairat Akhmetov – who he could face in the semi-finals.
In fact, “The King” holds each of the tournament participants in high regard, though perhaps none more so than the frontrunner and ONE debutant Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
If Kingad can make it through two tough bouts, the 12-time Flyweight World Champion could be waiting for him in the final, and nothing would make the Philippine Wushu Champion happier.
“I followed his career,” he admits.
“Before, I was only able to watch him, and even used him as a character in some console and mobile games. I never would have imagined that he would be here in ONE.
“Even back then, he was on my wish list of dream match-ups, so hopefully, I can fulfill that dream.
“I respect him because he was able to compete against some of the best in the sport, proving just how strong he is. But of course, I want to test his skills because I believe that when it comes to the flyweight division, the best are really here in Asia.”
Long before he can think about “Mighty Mouse,” or even the next round of the bracket, Kingad has to focus on a hometown hero in Ikeda – a Pancrase Flyweight World Champion, who replaced Andrew Leone after the Bali-based American was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
“The King” has also spoken about his respect for his new opponent, who has stepped up to join the biggest event in ONE history on just two weeks’ notice.
Despite his late addition to the bout card and Kingad’s confidence, he has no thoughts of underestimating his adversary. The lessons from his coaches and peers have taught him that any martial artist must be respected – especially in this tournament of elite athletes.