On a difficult night for the Philippines, Danny “The King” Kingad carried the torch for his country and put on another brilliant performance to make his compatriots proud.
Last Friday, 2 August, the 23-year-old defeated Reece “Lightning” McLaren via split decision after three rounds of non-stop action to book his place in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix final.
Kingad was the shining light for his nation at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES at Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena, where four of his teammates were defeated.
“I’m really happy with my performance… [but] it’s a bittersweet feeling,” he says.
“We came in there with one goal, to win, but thankfully I came through. I’m just happy that at least someone won.”
At one point, it looked like “The King” may have been forced to join his compatriots from Team Lakay at the end of the night and reflect on a disappointing result as his Australian rival took charge in the opening stages of their contest.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was aggressive with his ground game from the opening bell. He took several dominant positions, which stopped Kingad from imposing his striking game, and forced him to go on the defensive.
“I was surprised to see him pursue the ground game from the start,” he admits.
“I was kind of expecting him to test the waters in the striking department. I was working on my counters, but he didn’t want to strike at all. He really wanted to grind it out.”
“Lightning” tried to end things early with a succession of rear-naked choke attempts, but just like in the rest of his bouts over the last 18 months, Kingad refused to be pinned down for long.
“Thankfully, I didn’t get overwhelmed on the ground. That’s what he really wanted – to get me on the ground and look for a submission.
“There were moments where it was frustrating – when he kept on taking my back – but thankfully I didn’t cave in, good thing I was able to escape that rear-naked choke.”
“The King” got himself back into the contest in the second stanza, and then took over in the final five minutes with an onslaught of offense to tip the match-up in his favor in the eyes of two of the three judges.
That means he will advance to the tournament final at ONE: CENTURY in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October, where his opponent will be American mixed martial arts icon, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson – who defeated Tatsumitsu Wada last Friday.
The 12-time flyweight World Champion arrived in ONE Championship as favorite to win this World Grand Prix, but his upcoming opponent is not scared to face him.
In fact, the man from Baguio City always wanted this opportunity, and he cannot wait to show that athletes from the East are a match for the best of their Western counterparts.
“It is a good thing “DJ” won. I’m happy he won because I really wanted to face him – I want to be the person to beat him,” he says.
“They say he’s the greatest of all time, but I guess we’re proving that Asians – particularly the small guys – are world-class as well.”
Although Kingad is confident about his chances against “Mighty Mouse,” he knows he cannot afford to leave a single stone unturned in his preparation to face him.
That means there will be little time to celebrate this sixth win in a row.
After some quality time with his family, “The King” will get back on the mats at Team Lakay to make sure his skills are sharper than ever for the biggest challenge of his career.
“I’ll just spend a few days with my baby, then we’re back to training to prepare for Demetrious Johnson,” he says.
“I’ve never imagined I would be in this position. I didn’t know if I was built for this [when I first started in mixed martial arts], but we’re here now, and I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to chase that dream.”