Another journey begins for new ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon
Santino Honasan on Nov 12, 2018 05:02 PM
It took two years for Kevin Belingon to return to the world championship picture. Now that he's finally a champion, a new challenge awaits him.
Even if his face was all battered and bruised up, Kevin Belingon still had a massive smile on his face as he greeted the fans and friends that were waiting for him at the lobby of the Mercure Bugis Hotel in Singapore.
The 31-year old Ifugao-native had just survived a five-round bout against one of the most dangerous submission grapplers in the world and the very man that is heralded as the most dominant champion in ONE Championship history.
In fact, Belingon did more than just survive.
Belingon defeated Bibiano Fernandes via split decision in the main event of ONE: Heart of the Lion in Singapore last November 9th.
It was a rematch of their 2016 encounter that saw Fernandes defeat Belingon via submission in the first round.
It was the first time in five years that the ONE Bantamweight World Championship had changed hands, and it was the firs time in 14 fights that Fernandes had absorbed defeat.
For Belingon, the hard-fought win was the culmination of a two-year journey back to the championship scene, which began when he lost to Fernandes the first time around.
What means more is up for discussion, but the important thing is, Belingon got his revenge and how he’s the undisputed champion.
“Siyempre masaya ako kasi nakabawi ako sa unang pagkatalo ko sa kanya, tapos ito, parang mas lumaki pa yung achievements ko, so masayang masaya talaga ako na na-talo ko si Bibi, tapos parang even na kami,” Belingon said as he tried to relax in his hotel room.
There wasn’t too much space on his bed, as he was sharing it with his two ONE world championship belts.
“Ngayon may ka-pares na siya,” the champ said jokingly.
What was most impeccable about Belingon’s performance against Fernandes was that he had shown an exponential improvement in his submission defense, certainly a far cry from how he managed back in 2016, when his doom came in the form of a Fernandes-applied kimura in the first round.
This time around, Belingon survived and defended at least three submission attempts, which would have been unthinkable against a fighter the caliber of Fernandes.
Baguio Jiu-Jitsu had claimed its latest and most high-profile victim in Fernandes.
Aside from the world championship and a measure of revenge, Belingon also feels a strong sense of satisfaction knowing that he was able to hold his own against one of the best in the world on the mats.
“Very satisfied ako kasi nga black belt siya sa jiu-jitsu, tapos nadepensahan ko yung attempts niya,” he said with a grin. “Ayun pa lang, yung pag-escape ko sa armbar, very satisfied na ako, kasi kahit hindi ko man ma-submit si Bibiano, at least na-escape-an ko yung mga attempts niya.”
While it’s quite unclear who coined the term Baguio Jiu-Jitsu, it began simply as a humorous play on words, but has since become a sort of mantra for the boys over at Team Lakay.
Baguio Jiu Jistu might as well be the term used for the dedication and the marked improvement that these boys from Baguio have shown in their most recent conquests, and Belingon is just the latest use it to win a championship.
Back in late 2016, Eduard Folayang stunned the world when he survived and knocked out a Japanese submission machined named Shinya Aoki to become the new ONE Lightweight World Champion.
In 2018, against a pair of former champions and world-class grapplers in Kairat Akhmetov and Adriano Moraes, Geje Eustaquio used his Baguio Jiu-Jitsu to first become an interim world champion, and then later on become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
Much like Belingon, Joshua Pacio lost his first opportunity at a world championship against Japanese grappler Yoshitaka Naito by submission, but after focusing on his ground game in training, Pacio managed to stifle Naito’s attempts in their world title rematch, resulting in a ONE Strawweight World Championship win for the young Filipino.
Eustaquio said it best after his win over Moraes, “Please don’t underestimate our BJJ, or what we call Baguio Jiu Jitsu. In more time, we will submit you guys.”
HOME OF CHAMPIONS
It’s hard not to be motivated to excel, especially when you train alongside a who’s-who of champions over at Team Lakay in La Trinidad, Benguet.
Currently, there are five members of Team Lakay who have gone on to capture an undisputed ONE world championship, with Belingon being the latest. He follows in the footsteps of Honorio Banario, Folayang, Eustaquio, and Pacio.
“The Silencer” shared that his team’s success was a source of motivation, more than anything.
“Syempre nung nakuha nila yung title nila sa mga division nila, mas naging challenge pa sa akin na makuha yung undisputed belt kaya yun yung nag-challenge sa akin na mag-train pa ng husto para makuha itong belt na ‘to.”
Before the end of the year, Team Lakay has the chance to bring home another championship, as Folayang will try to become a two-time ONE World Champion when he meets Singaporean Amir Khan for the vacant ONE Lightwieght World Championship in Manila on November 23rd.
NO LONGER JUST A CONTENDER
Before entering the cage for the rematch against Fernandes, Belingon was already a world champion.
It was a feat he accomplished after defeating former two-division world champion Martin Nguyen in Manila.
But even then, even after becoming a world champion for the first time, Belingon knew that there was an even bigger prize at hand, and that was a chance at the undisputed title.
Nearly five months later, Belingon was finally an undisputed champion. No longer was he just a contender, and no longer was he the interim champion.
“Yung interim kasi, parang temporary. Kumbaga temporary title, tapos itong undisputed, ito na ‘to. Ito na ‘yung totoong title, kaya masayang-masaya ako kasi nakuha ko yung interim tapos na-prove ko pa na kaya kong makuha yung undisputed belt,” he said with a sense of pride.
JUST THE BEGINNING
For the first time in what appears to be years, Belingon is finally going to get a bit of rest, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and probably spiritually.
For the first time in his career, Belingon isn’t chasing after anything.
Now, he’s the one that’s going to be chased, and that’s something he knows that he needs to prepare for as well.
For the last few years, Belingon has been fueled by the desire to become a champion.
Now that he’s achieved his goal, the next challenge for him is to remain champion.
“Same parin yung mindset nung hindi pa ako champion,” he claimed. “Ngayong nakuha ko na ito, kailangan naman depensahan, yun yung isang parang next na goal ko, kailangan idepensa, idepensa, idepensa para manatili yung title sa akin.”
It has been a while since Belingon looked like he went through a war, and that’s because he did.
It took over two years for Belingon to get back on this stage, and if you ask the man himself, a swollen foot, a busted lip, and a few bumps and bruises is a small price to pay if it means coming out with gold around the waist.
Belingon’s journey back to the title was long and challenging, but it’s over.
Now begins his journey to becoming the best ever begins.