“Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il wants to prove that he’s no longer just a rising star – he’s a bona fide top contender.
The South Korean slugger will get a chance to do that when meets #2-ranked bantamweight mixed martial artist Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon in the co-main event of ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II next Friday, 17 December.
A win over the former ONE Bantamweight World Champion would certainly put Kwon’s name among the division’s upper echelon, and “Pretty Boy” sees this bout as the next step on his inevitable road to greatness.
“I’m the icon of a new generation. That’s how I feel. That’s what I believe is going to happen,” the 26-year-old says.
“Belingon is really an amazing athlete. But in some ways, I’ve already caught up to many of his past accomplishments. I’m dreaming of things much more and beyond.”
The Seoul resident is not just dreaming, however. His reality is bright and promising, with five knockout victories on the global stage – four of them coming in the first round.
Given that success, “Pretty Boy” is playing a key role in the the rise of South Korean MMA within ONE Championship.
In recent years, the country has produced some of the most exciting athletes on the organization’s roster, including Ham Seo Hee, Kang Ji Won, and most notably, newly crowned ONE Lightweight World Champion Ok Rae Yoon.
Those stars have elevated the nation on the global stage of martial arts, and Kwon is well on his way to continuing that trend.
For his part, Kwon also thinks it would be enough to earn him a shot at the gold.
“I know that there are many great athletes in the top five, but if I beat Kevin Belingon – who was the previous champion – I think I am more qualified than any other athlete to be the next contender,” he says.
“I believe Belingon is still in his prime right now. All the opponents I’ve gone up against so far were all champions that I think are in their primes, so that gives me the entitlement to compete for the World Title by defeating them.”
Although Kwon has sky-high expectations, he doesn’t expect an easy night against “The Silencer.” The 34-year-old Filipino has taken on a who’s who of the bantamweight elite, producing some stunning finishes along the way.
The Extreme Combat and Top Gym BF athlete certainly respects his foe’s body of work, but he won’t be scared of the renowned heavy hitter when they square off inside the Circle.
“He’s tough. He’s strong. He has strong punches. He has a good kick – he is someone who’s good at striking. And he’s also someone with a lot of experience,” Kwon says.
“I’ve never been concerned about punching power. I don’t care. Because I believe, when it comes to a punch, it’s more about the timing than the power.
“Whether my punch takes out my opponent or my opponent’s punch takes me out, it will all come down to what happens during the competition. So that’s all I care about and focus on.”
Kwon also won’t be drawn into any back and forth about who is the more powerful striker. While the Team Lakay fixture thinks he can finish his younger rival inside the distance, “Pretty Boy” is happy to let his actions speak volumes. .
“He can say whatever he likes because, in a competition, it’s not about what you say about your opponent or talking about who is the better one,” the South Korean offers.
“Regardless of what my opponent might claim, I’m not bothered because I’m just going to be myself and prove myself through my actions. I hope he proves his words with his actions inside the Circle.”
Given “Pretty Boy’s” back catalog and 90 percent finishing rate, fans can expect his actions to consist of slinging heavy leather with Belingon until one of them falls.
But while a finish is certainly top of the confident striker’s agenda, a hard-earned decision victory over such a seasoned competitor would also be a major triumph in this crucial battle.
“I always believe in myself. While in the Circle, I believe I am stronger than my opponents, [but] I don’t know how I will win until I am there in a real bout,” Kwon adds.
“If I get the chance, then I’ll KO him. If I don’t, then I will prepare myself so that I can win from the judges.”