MANILA, Philippines – While the coronavirus pandemic has caused the entire Philippines to halt to a virtual standstill, Kevin Belingon has been feeling the urge to wear a pair of four-ounce gloves once more.
The former ONE Championship bantamweight titlist was last seen inside the cage when he succumbed to a second-round submission defeat at the hands of arch-nemesis Bibiano Fernandes in the fourth and final encounter of their grueling rivalry this past October.
Ever since that fateful night, Belingon opted to step away from the bright lights of the sport and reflected on the topsy-turvy life that he had gone through.
“My last 3 fights were against Bibiano, which two of it happened in 2019 and I lost both. Can you imagine that? It was difficult for me. I needed to take a breather. I decided to spend time with my family and enjoyed the company of my wife,” he disclosed.
After some soul-searching, the 32-year-old Kiangan, Ifugao native started to gain renewed enthusiasm for his craft.
“It was never easy, but I was blessed that I had my family and my brothers at Team Lakay behind me during that phase of my career. They kept me going,” Belingon shared.
One teammate that lit a fire inside Belingon is strawweight kingpin Joshua Pacio, who is fresh from a successful title defense against one-time division champion Alex Silva last January.
“Joshua inspires me a lot. Look at what he has accomplished at a young age. Before he was just looking up to me, now he is my idol,” the senior Team Lakay member stated in jest. “But seeing him retain his belt motivated me so much. That’s all I needed.”
The lingering itch to compete again does not want Belingon to wait much longer. While nothing has been set on stone yet, he has one opponent and date in mind for his first outing this year.
Targeting a return to action on May 29 at the 20,000-capacity Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, “The Silencer” has UFC veteran John Lineker in his crosshairs.
“I want to fight him. He is an exciting martial artist, and he even fought the best athletes in the United States. Surely, I want to test myself against a man who has an amazing stand-up. John Lineker and I will be a must-watch bout on any card,” Belingon said.
In July of last year, Lineker left the UFC in favor of signing an exclusive deal with ONE Championship. He then made his promotional debut versus Tajik standout Muin Gafurov 3 months later, walking away with the razor-thin unanimous decision victory.
Three years prior, Belingon crossed paths with Gafurov, winning the tactical three-round contest in the same fashion.
The Brazilian hard-hitter may seem to be a daunting task for Belingon, but the Filipino spitfire seems unfazed on the potential match-up.
“I know he is a knockout artist. Instead of being afraid, it excites me. I want to challenge myself. I don’t want a stepping stone in my next fight,” he explained.
At the moment, Team Lakay is taking a wait-and-see approach amid the global health crisis. Most of Mark Sangiao’s prized wards are training in their respective homes as the entire Luzon is placed under an enhanced community quarantine.
Belingon has been documenting his training sessions in isolation, lifting a five-gallon water container while doing squats. He has also been seen running through the mountainous terrain near his humble abode.
“It will be a huge problem for us if one of us gets hit by the virus. That’s like getting an injury. So now we’re really careful about it, so we can avoid the virus and still continue to train normally,” he asserted.
A couple of weeks ago, ONE Championship head honcho Chatri Sityodtong announced that 4 of its upcoming events will be on a closed-door setting in Singapore. However, the bout lineups have yet to be determined by the organization as of this writing.
According to Sityodtong, the May 29 affair that Belingon is seeking to be part of will be open to the public.
As he and his teammates wait for ONE Championship’s call, Belingon assured that he is ready to suit up.
“I am prepared. Right now, we’re employing a one-at-a-time use of the gym. Should a fighter get an offer, he gets priority access. It’s business as usual for me while in quarantine. I am more than ready to compete” he guaranteed. – Rappler.com