ONE: Why are we getting Belingon versus Nguyen for the interim bantamweight world title?

Santino Honasan on Jul 26, 2018 11:06 AM
Why are we getting Belingon-Nguyen for the interim title?
Whatever the outcome is come Friday night, history will be made at the end of the Kevin Belingon-Martin Nguyen title bout.

Friday night’s ONE Championship: Reign of Kings main event will feature top-ranked bantamweight contender Kevin ‘The Silencer’ Belingon of Team Lakay taking on reigning two-division world champion Martin Nguyen for the interim ONE Bantamweight World Title.

For Belingon, it’s a chance at finally becoming a world champion, and finally getting his shot at redemption against reigning ONE Bantamweight king Bibiano Fernandes.

For Nguyen, it’s a chance at making history by becoming a three-division world champion, something that hasn’t been done elsewhere.

And while indeed, Belingon versus Nguyen is a main event caliber fight featuring two of the promotion’s hottest stars, the fight wasn’t exactly what people were expecting to see.

For the last year and a half or so, Belingon has blitzed through the bantamweight ranks, solidifying his place as the top bantamweight contender to reigning champ Fernandes, so after his destruction of former title contender Andrew Leone in Manila last April, many believed it was a foregone conclusion that he’d finally be getting another crack at the bantamweight gold.

Even Belingon believed that it was his time, and wasn’t giving too much attention to a call out from Martin Nguyen.

“Hindi ko muna pinapansin yun, ako nakapila ako sa title shot, si Bibiano muna ang nasa isip ko. Kung sakaling talunin ko si Bibiano, eh di pwede mag-match kay Nguyen.” Belingon said back in June.

(READ: With title shot in mind, Kevin Belingon says Martin Nguyen can wait)

Nguyen came up short in his bid for the bantamweight title back in March, losing to Fernandes via split decision. He was fresh off a featherweight title defense against Chrstian Lee in May when he called Belingon out.

Nguyen wouldn’t have to wait after all.

A day after saying that he wasn’t focused on anything else aside from another shot at Fernandes, Belingon was booked in an interim title bout against Nguyen, which, as mentioned, serves as Friday night’s main event.

So how did it all come together? Wasn’t Belingon supposed to get the next shot?

As it turns out, he was supposed to get his long-awaited title shot. Thing is, the champ was still injured, with no definite return date in mind.

“Bibiano turned down the fight because he was still injured.” explained ONE Championship founder and Chairman Chatri Sityodtong during the Reign of Kings Press Launch, Tuesday afternoon. “Bibiano could only fight in October or November, and so the choice, I gave it to Belingon, I said you can wait a lot longer, and we don’t know, because Bibiano still has an ankle injury, so I don’t know if he’s even gonna be back in October or November.”

Not one to turn down a fight, Belingon agreed to take on Nguyen.

“That’s the thing, I asked Belingon, you wanna do it? It’s an interim title fight, and Belingon is a warrior and he said yeah.” Sityodtong continued.

Sityodtong added that the supposed Belingon-Bibiano title bout was the originally-planned headliner for Reign of Kings. It would have been a re-do of their 2016 title bout.

“We didn’t have a date for Bibiano. The first was, we gave Bibiano the title option with Belingon, but Bibiano was still injured. I was trying to make it happen here.”

“Kudos to Kevin Belingon, he’s such a warrior, because the original fight was Belingon versus Bibiano here in the Philippines for this event, but Bibiano’s injured so he wasn’t able to do it, so we asked Belingon, does he want to fight? And he said ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’, so kudos to him.” Sityodtong expounded further.

So why does Nguyen get the interim title shot, after having just fallen short against Fernandes?

Simple answer could be that Nguyen provides the most intriguing matchup for Belingon, right now.

Some could argue that Leandro Issa should be in that spot instead of Nguyen. The 34-year old Brazilian Issa was a pioneer in ONE Championship before a run in the UFC from 2014 to 2016. Since returning to ONE Championship in 2017, Issa has won three straight, two against former title contenders in Tauru and Dae Hwan Kim.

Should Fernandes remain on the shelf for the foreseeable future, a matchup between Issa and the winner of Belingon versus Nguyen would make the most sense.

For now however, the world will get to see Belingon and Nguyen bring fireworks inside the ONE cage.

A quick look at Belingon’s record and Bibiano’s record will show that the Team Lakay knockout artist has laid waste to the three of the champion’s last five challengers in Leone, Reece McLaren, and Toni Tauru. The other two names on that list: Belingon himself, and Nguyen.

Belingon versus Nguyen, under any other circumstances, would have already been a must-see fight. With an interim title on the line and with a shot at the bantamweight king at stake, it makes the war even more interesting.

If Belingon can take Nguyen out, that’ll be six straight wins for the Pinoy, and it’ll be his fourth win against a former bantamweight title contender. That solidifies his place as one of the top two guys in the division, and the rightful contender to the undisputed title.

Further more, win for Belingon makes him a world champion, putting him among Team Lakay stablemates Honorio Banario, Eduard Folayang, and Geje Eustaquio as former or current ONE Championship world title holders, and it also gives the Philippines the most number of world title wins in the promotion.

If Nguyen takes Belingon out, he earns a place in history as a three-divison world champion, holding the ONE Featherweight, ONE Lightweight, and interim ONE Bantamweight world titles, a feat that hasn’t been done in MMA. It also puts him as the rightful contender to the undisputed bantamweight strap held by Fernandes.

Whatever the outcome is on Friday night, history will be made. Be sure to watch it unfold.


Team Lakay bantamweight star Kevin ‘The Silencer’ Belingon meets reigning two-division world champion Martin ‘The Situ-Asian’ Nguyen for the interim ONE Championship Bantamweight World title at ONE: Reign of Kings on Friday, July 27th at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Catch the action LIVE starting at 8:30 PM on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23!


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