After suffering his first promotional loss late last year, the Filipino bounced back with an emphatic one-punch knockout victory over Japanese dynamo Namiki Kawahara in January.
Ahead of that massive card, “Thunder Kid” breaks down his stylistic matchup with Hexigetu, his originally scheduled clash with Jarred “The Monkey God” Brooks, his plans for the future, and more.
ONE Championship: At ONE: REVOLUTION, you’re facing Hexigetu, who has won his last three bouts. How do you size up your opponent?
Lito Adiwang: I watched his previous fights, and he’s very unpredictable. I think it depends on his opponent.
His wrestling and takedowns are good. His [ground] control is good as well. I see three things: his wrestling, ground control, and how he backpedals. I think those are the things that I have to solve and check.
For example, in his last bout against Dejdamrong [Sor Amnuaysirichoke], he was backpedaling a lot. But if he feels like he can take on his opponent, he puts on the pressure.
Honestly, I think it’s much more difficult to face opponents who backpedal all the time. I’m much more confident and prepared against someone who would be at my face and go toe-to-toe with me.
ONE: So how do you deal with opponents who are not that enthusiastic about engaging?
LA: I try to look at it as a puzzle. We prepared a game plan just so we don’t get frustrated if he decides to run in our clash. The most important thing is to stay focused and locked in – stay the course and don’t play his game.
This is where we look back and take the positive from the loss against Hiroba [Minowa]. Looking back on that match, I think they’re a bit similar. I was rushing to finish him, to the point that I was already making mistakes each time I rushed in. It always resulted in a takedown for him. So, that’s one positive thing from that fight. It pretty much prepares me for this match.
ONE: But what if he decides to stand toe-to-toe with you?
LA: That’s going to be a wrong move for him.
ONE: How do you plan to beat Hexigetu?
LA: I think he’ll run around, strike a little, and then shoot [for a takedown], but I’ve prepared something for him to finish him off. But if he wants to stand toe-to-toe with me, that’s better for me. That means I’d have a better opportunity to finish him with strikes or a submission.
ONE: Before this, you were scheduled to fight Jarred Brooks in April. A lot of people rated him as the best strawweight outside of ONE. How frustrated are you that it didn’t pan out?
LA: Maybe a little bit disappointed. But now, I’m using the cancelation as motivation to continue winning. So, maybe we’ll meet again in the future.
Last time, I had a short preparation for him, so we just focused on his strengths and weaknesses, and I looked at the things where I can dominate him. I think his game plan was to take me down, try to control me on the ground, and get that submission. So, the plan was to try and surprise him with a submission of my own on the ground.
ONE: Do you think Jarred got lucky that the fight was canceled?
LA: Honestly, I can’t say he’s lucky. He’s a strong opponent, and, for sure, in his mind, he knows he can beat me, 100 percent. I think I’m the underdog in that fight. I’m just praying I get to meet him again in the future so we can put an end to it.
ONE: Speaking of people you’d want to face, you previously mentioned that you want to either rematch Minowa or get a dream match with Rodtang Jitmuangnon in ONE Super Series. Are those matches still in your mind?
LA: Of course. Even after the fight, I was already asking [Minowa] for a rematch. He had so many excuses, whether I needed to prove myself and whatnot.
So I get it, I have to prove myself first and climb my way back into the rankings. Once I’m there already, I’m sure he has nowhere to go. If I start winning and claw my way back to the top, he won’t have anywhere to run.
As per Rodtang, he’s still on my radar. I don’t plan on calling people out and not pushing through with it. I said that because I wanted that to happen. Right now, I’m focused on Hexigetu because he’s the one in front of me. But in the future, of course, I’d like to test myself against him. It’s still a fight I’d love to pursue.
I want to prove to the people that your ambition stays just as an ambition if you don’t work for it. If you want to dream big, you have to make it a reality.
ONE: Considering that you were supposed to face Jarred Brooks, and wanted big names like Rodtang and Minowa, do you feel like this match with Hexigetu is a step down for you?
LA: I don’t think this is a step down for me. I respect all my co-athletes, so whether he’s ranked or not, the fact that he’s in front of me [means] I know he’ll do whatever it takes to beat me. As for me, it’s all the same. Let’s just see whatever level he comes in.
ONE: The last time Team Lakay faced someone from China, Eduard Folayang dropped a decision loss to Zhang Lipeng. Do you feel like this is a match you have to win to redeem Folayang’s loss against Hexigetu’s countryman?
LA: Yes, this is redemption for me and my team. On my end, it’s hard to see someone I look up to – our pioneer in Eduard – lose against Zhang Lipeng. Now, I’m facing Hexigetu, and they’re from the same country. I need to do my part and get one back for me and the team.
ONE: Also competing on this card is your teammate Joshua Pacio, who defends his ONE Strawweight World Title against Yosuke Saruta in a trilogy bout. How much do you think the pair has improved since the last time they faced each other?
LA: I think Saruta has improved. But the thing is, Joshua is so much better. He’s improved a lot, particularly with his power, his positioning, and his technical side. I can say he’s a complete fighter now. He’s truly on a World Champion level.
ONE: Do you think there’s pressure on Joshua since he’s the last remaining Filipino World Champion?
LA: I think Joshua uses it in a positive way. The last time we talked together, he’s not pressured. He’s motivated to win. He wants to win.
ONE: How do you think that match will end?
LA: I think it’s going to be very similar to their second fight. Once Saruta makes a mistake, he’s going to sleep.