One year ago, Gina “Conviction” Iniong was sitting on top of the world.
Then in January 2020, Iniong jumped back into the Circle at ONE: FIRE & FURY. In front of her compatriots at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, she decimated Indian star Asha “Knockout Queen” Roka to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Soon after, Iniong became pregnant with her first child and contemplated retiring to focus on her family. Everyone, including Team Lakay Head Coach Mark Sangiao, was truly uncertain about the fighter’s future in the sport.
“We cannot really tell if Gina Iniong will return. It’s her decision. We cannot really say,” Sangiao said in June.
“We told ONE already about it, and they sent their congratulations. They also told her not to think about retirement at this time. It’s her life and whatever she does, we’ll support her.”
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But now, two months after the birth of her daughter, Gianna Rose, Iniong has decided to put her retirement plans on hold and return to the sport she loves.
“I can’t wait to get back in the Circle. I’ve missed it,” the 31-year-old says.
“Once I’m cleared to go back to training, and when my body feels right, you can expect to see me alongside your favorite Team Lakay superheroes again.”
During her time away from the Circle, Iniong – the former #5-ranked atomweight contender – realized she was entering the prime of her mixed martial arts career.
She’s aware that an athlete only has a limited window of time to compete at the highest level – and she wants to take advantage while at her physical peak.
“This year, everything just fell into place for me, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons. The biggest lesson I learned this year is that time is so precious,” Iniong adds.
“You can’t put a price on it. It’s the only thing you can never make more of. It’s life’s most expensive commodity.”
A lot of things have changed in ONE Championship’s atomweight division since Iniong went on her maternal break.
For starters, she’s not the top-ranked female mixed martial artist from the Philippines anymore, as that distinction now belongs to #1 atomweight contender Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga.
Besides Zamboanga, dangerous Chinese knockout artist Meng Bo, dynamic Chinese grappler “MMA Sister” Lin Heqin, and former two-sport ONE World Champion Stamp Fairtex are some of the talented athletes in the division who emerged during Iniong’s absence.
Though “Conviction” has been on the sidelines enjoying her new marriage and baby girl, she’s been watching the latest developments on the global stage, and she is prepared to start competing against this new wave of warriors.
“My division is really exciting right now. There are so many great talents, and I’m so excited for a lot of potential matchups. Any opponent that ONE Championship will give me, I’ll be ready,” Iniong says.
“I’m hungry and motivated to re-establish myself at the top. Fans can expect a stronger, wiser, and more dangerous Gina Iniong.”