Though it seems impossible that Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon could improve on his 2018 campaign, the 31-year-old says he is just getting started.
The ONE Bantamweight World Champion is on one of the most incredible runs in ONE Championship history. His seventh consecutive win saw him capture his belt by knocking Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes – the most dominant World Champion in the organization’s history – off the top.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, December 24, 2018
He has reached the pinnacle of mixed martial arts, but as he explains, he believes his achievements this year only signaled the start of something.
In 2019, Belingon says he will work harder, take on on bigger challenges, and get better as a martial artist.
ONE Championship: Would you consider 2018 the greatest year in your professional career?
I feel I am still getting better and better. Every day we go hard in training, and I am very fortunate to be training with the best martial artists in the world at Team Lakay.
We consider ourselves like family, and we are all very close. I think it’s because of this bond with each other that we are able to do the things that we do. We share in our triumphs and our defeats, and we all learn from each others’ experiences.
This is the very best team at its core, and I couldn’t be more proud to have this belt over my shoulder to honor all of our hard work. It’s not my belt, it’s ours.
This entire year has been a blessing, but the best is yet to come. “The Silencer” still has a lot do.
ONE: What are you most proud of from 2018?
KB: While winning the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Title definitely tops the list of accomplishments, it isn’t the most important achievement I’ve had this year when it comes to my professional career.
What comes with being champion – the responsibility I have to my countrymen, the opportunity to inspire the youth, and all the guys who want to follow in the team’s footsteps – these are the most important things.
At Team Lakay, we have accomplished so much with very little. We didn’t have to have a fully-equipped gym with state-of-the-art facilities, we never came from well-off and prestigious upbringings, but what we did with what we had was the most important thing. For that, I will always be extremely proud.
Who would have thought that a small gym from up in the mountains of the Philippines would produce five World Champions in martial arts? It’s amazing when you think about it, and I am definitely thankful to be a part of that.
ONE: What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2018?
KB: By far, patience has been the biggest lesson I’ve learned all year. Now, I try my best to practice patience in every aspect. Even before the year started, I was already on a journey of patience, working on my skills to get better, and ultimately to be the best version of myself.
I have come to understand that it’s all about the process and not necessarily the end result. Once I came to terms with that, everything else started to fall into place. I wasn’t rushing things, both in and out of the cage. In every opportunity, I wait for my openings, I wait for the perfect chance to execute my techniques, and let the game come to me.
As a result, I have also been able to better recognize openings and capitalize on them. I’ve also learned not to waste any opportunities to finish bouts as fast as I can. I’m young and hungry, and I am at my strongest. When I sense the chance to end a bout early, I’ll take it.
ONE: The bantamweight division is very deep with talent. Are you excited for the possible matchups and opponents you could face in 2019?
KB: I know it’s all just going to get tougher from here. When I became the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion, I never thought to myself that things would get easier. In fact, I knew that every fight from here on will be the toughest of my career, regardless of the opponent.
There are a lot of great guys at bantamweight, and everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I am definitely excited for the match-ups coming in 2019.
As champion, I have to constantly be ready and at my best. It’s a privilege, but at the same time, it’s also a huge responsibility. I have to do my best to remain the champion for the glory and honor of my country, and all the people who love and believe in me.
ONE: After such a close second bout with Bibiano Fernandes, are you happy to face him again next?
KB: I know Bibiano Fernandes quite well after facing him twice in my career. He really is a great champion and a great person. I know we both work very hard, and he has actually inspired me to work even harder.
It was a great rematch between him and I and, of course, I am open to doing it all again. Whether this belt is around my waist or not, I am open to the biggest and baddest challenges out there.
As a martial artist and as a competitor, facing the best in my division is all I could ask for. I just want to test my skills and see where I stack up among the very best in my division. Whether it’s Bibiano or another opponent that’s next for me, we’ll find out soon.
I have no problem facing anybody ONE Championship puts me in the cage with, whether that’s Bibiano or not. I will be ready for whatever. This is what I love to do. I love every second of it, and I consider myself lucky to be doing this for my career.
ONE: What else do the next 12 months hold for “The Silencer”?
KB: My plan will always remain the same, and that’s to win every fight. I’m taking things one fight at a time.
It doesn’t matter if I am champion or not, I train the same way all the time, and that’s giving more than 100 percent effort every time I’m in the gym. To keep this belt and to defend it successfully takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and all of us are willing to do everything that we can.
The next year is going to be very busy and it’s going to be a tough challenge, probably the toughest we’ve ever had. But we are ready for it. We will face whatever challenges we have like we always do. Win or lose, we’re going to come out of it better martial artists.
But of course, my plan is to do everything in my power to keep this belt at home in the Philippines.