The 22-year-old felt obligated to set the tone for a successful night for Team Lakay, as the Filipino’s friend and teammate Joshua “The Passion” Pacio was challenging for the ONE Strawweight World Championship in the main event later that evening.
It was not an easy night for “The King,” as he had to survive some heavy fire from Japanese newcomer Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu. However, he dug deep to win via unanimous decision in a bout-of-the-night performance.
Here is what Kingad had to say after one of the toughest and most exciting bouts of his young career.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, 23 September 2018
ONE Championship: You said you were aware of Wakamatsu’s power before the bout, but were you surprised at how hard his punches were?
Danny Kingad: He did have a lot of knockouts on his record, and that doesn’t come easily, so I knew he had a lot of power, and that’s one of the aspects of this bout we really prepared for.
I wanted to test his striking initially, but I got surprised in the first round. He caught me with a good shot to the head that I didn’t see coming.
After that, I knew I had to be more careful. His power is real, and that was a hard shot.
I really felt his power. When I got hit, I blacked out. I didn’t know where I was. I was just fighting on pure instinct.
It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. I thought I got knocked out, to be honest. After that, he hit me on the nose too, and that bothered me a lot.
When I watched the bout again, I was surprised it didn’t look as bad.
ONE: You began to attack his leg, which helped you to pull ahead on the scorecards. What other instructions did coach Mark Sangiao give you?
DK: Even before I was in there with him, we had already worked on using the leg kicks to slow him down.
We really worked on practicing the leg kick and the stomp to the knee in training. It was a big part of our strategy. I could feel him slowing down, and his punches were starting to lose power.
By the third round, he was not nearly as dangerous. I gained more confidence in standing up with him.
Coach Mark also told me to use my feints and to take the fight to the ground. That became a huge part of our game plan.
Once I got a taste of what he could do on the feet, I figured that standing up with him was not a good idea. I had to take him down to the ground, because I knew I had the advantage with my wrestling and jiu-jitsu, especially in the first round.
ONE: After your victory, you went back to the locker room to meet up with the rest of your team and Joshua Pacio, who was warming up for the main event. What did he say to you?
DK: I saw him warming up, and he was laser-focused, but when he noticed me come in, he was so happy for my victory. He congratulated me.
I was very nervous heading into my fight because I knew I had to win. Losing was not an option for me because it would have taken away from Joshua’s concentration. I wanted to win for my friend so he didn’t have to worry about anything.
This was the first time we were performing together on the same card since our ONE Championship debuts, and it felt just the same.
We were both happy and nervous at the same time. Every time we step into that cage, we want to showcase the heart of a Filipino warrior. That’s why we were so happy to have both won.
ONE: What was going through your mind when he won the title?
DK: It’s a feeling I can’t explain. It’s like I won the title, and I was just watching. I’m so happy for my brother. He worked so hard to get that belt, and now, he’s a World Champion.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Right now, it’s a cause for celebration. He deserves everything that he has now.
It has inspired me in my own career. To see him work so hard every day, and then to witness that hard work turn into success, it has motivated me for sure.
We’ve been training together since we started, me and Joshua. He’s been there in all of my wins and losses, and I have been there for his. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for him.
My goal is still to become a World Champion, but now that Geje (Eustaquio) is the ONE Flyweight Word Champion, I have mentioned before that I have no problem in facing any other top contender.
ONE: You said you wanted to face Kairat Akhmetov, and he also had a tremendous showing on the main card. What do you think about his performance, and what are your thoughts facing him now?
DK: I’m willing to face anyone that ONE Championship puts me in there with. I just want to test myself against the best.
What I can say about Kairat’s performance is that his wrestling is at a really high level. He can control guys so easily on the ground, and it’s the scariest thing about him.
He has worked very hard on becoming that good, so much respect to him. But Geje showed us how to beat him, and with good takedown defense, we can beat him with our striking.
If we do face each other next, then I have to work on my takedown defense and defensive wrestling.