The Team Lakay superstar – who is the #2-ranked flyweight contender – already had his sights on redemption against his two former foes, but when he saw his standing in his division, it sharpened his resolve to go after them when action inside the Circle gets back underway.
It is no coincidence that they are the men responsible for the only two blemishes on Kingad’s phenomenal 14-2 slate, and he made his intentions clear about wanting to square off against both Moraes and Johnson again soon.
“They’re the targets. They are the barometers of the division, and they handed me both of my losses, so yes, I hope to face them again,” Kingad asserts.
“The King” first faced Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Title in the co-main event of ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila, Philippines, on 10 November 2017.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt used his grappling experience to overcome the Baguio City native in his first shot at the gold, but he believes he has evolved a lot since then, and a second battle would be much different.
“I think if I get to face Adriano again, I’ll come more prepared – particularly in my takedown defense and submission defense,” he says.
“Those are the most important things to improve on. When it comes to striking, I’ll also have to polish my power so if there’s a chance to knock him out, I can capitalize.”
Kingad was just seven bouts into his professional mixed martial arts career when he took on “Mikinho” for the first time, and, aged just 21, he did not have enough experience to combat the Brazilian’s grappling offense.
“I think experience was a big factor in that match because it was just my second year in ONE at that time, and then they gave me a World Title shot already,” he offers.
“I think if it happens again, I would be showing a lot of new things – things that I wasn’t able to show in that fight. I’ve learned a lot since that match. I have gained experience from facing different opponents with different styles.
“I’ve continued to improve. The last few years have shown me the value of really working hard during training, focusing on sharpening my skill sets, and assessing my mistakes.”
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He was much more experienced when he faced Johnson for the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship at ONE: CENTURY in Tokyo, Japan, last October. But, despite a good showing against the man many consider as the greatest athlete of all time in mixed martial arts, he ultimately came up short on the judges’ scorecards.
Kingad admitted he was nervous when he faced the legendary American, and it did not help that he felt overwhelmed the moment Johnson started imposing his will in the match.
“When it comes to DJ, I have to change a lot of things, especially with how I reacted on the ground,” says “The King.”
“Like Moraes, I have to improve my ground game because DJ is also very good on the ground and transitions. I was also too excited when I entered the match. It’s something that I have to work on when we fight next.”
Kingad made it to the final bell against Johnson, which was an achievement in itself, but he realized that it got harder and harder to win against the 12-time flyweight World Champion as the match progresses.
That knowledge has influenced his plan of attack if he does get a second shot at the American superstar.
“When we fight again, I really have to go and swing for the fences and look for a finish. The longer the match goes, the harder it is to take him on,” he reveals.
“The King” got back on the winning track with his unanimous decision victory over “The Hunter” Xie Wei at ONE: FIRE & FURY in January, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his next move is unclear.
Moraes and Johnson are due to square off for the ONE Flyweight World Championship when ONE’s 2020 calendar of events resumes, and he will be keeping a close eye on the result.
However, even if he doesn’t get the chance to face off against one of his division’s two leading men in his next bout, he is happy to be situated close behind a pair of mixed martial arts greats and will continue to improve at Team Lakay until his chance does come.
“I am happy that I am in this conversation, and I feel like I’ve changed a lot from all those matches,” says Kingad.
“Back then, we were not that experienced, so I am happy that I am seeing the work that we’ve been doing.”