There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt, but when Honorio Banario stands opposite Eric Kelly at ONE FC: 'Return of Warriors' knowing he is about to face a fighter he shares a hometown with and has sparred with extensively, he knows exactly what he will feel.
"Confidence. Even if you watch some fights on the internet you never know what it will be like to fight with somebody until you do it but with Eric it is not the same because we sparred together a lot, especially before his first ONE FC fight, so I know what to expect from him and I am very confident I can beat him but I am also sure that he feels the same way."
Although the two are not team mates they both come from Baguio and class each other as friends although at the same time Banario is quick to point out that they are not 'close friends.'
"Yes, Eric is my friend but we are not best friends and he is not my team mate, we just trained together a little bit before. When ONE FC told us we would be fighting for the title it was a big surprise and we were both shocked because before I was a lightweight and he was a featherweight so we never thought one day we would fight together but it is no problem for me."
Anyone who has witnessed a sparring session at Team Lakay, where Banario helped Kelly prepare for his ONE FC fight with Mitch Chilson last September, knows that the intensity is high. Wearing 16 ounce gloves and protective head gear the fighters hold nothing back and the reigning URCC lightweight champion knows exactly what to expect from his opponent come fight night.
"It will be a striking battle, a stand up war, everyone knows that. When I was helping him prepare to fight Mitch Chilson we sparred very hard and we both have the same style of Wushu so when we fight it will be just like we are at the Lakay Gym, I know there are thousands of people watching and the winner will be a world champion so maybe everything is not the same, but we both know what is going to happen. It's going to be a war."
Banario and Kelly have more in common than the sparring sessions they shared together back home in Baguio. Kelly was originally supposed to fight Bae Young Kwon at ONE FC: 'Battle of Heroes' in Jakarta but pulled out of the fight at late notice with Banario volunteering to step up and make his featherweight debut instead.
Then, when Kelly was unable to fight for the belt at ONE FC: 'Rise of the Lions' in Singapore due to URCC commitments, Kwon was drafted in to replace him in a rematch with Banario which was only pulled from the card when the Korean suffered an injury in training.
That was frustrating for Banario who was coming to the closing stages of his training camp when the fight was cancelled and he has some pent up frustration which he is hoping to take out on Kelly on February 2nd.
"It was a big disappointment because I trained very hard, that was a big opportunity for me and because I was fighting for the belt and because Bae Young Kwon is the only fighter to ever defeat me coach Mark (Sangiao) pushed me very hard and I felt sure I could get my revenge on Bae Young Kwon."
In the future Banario wants a rematch with the Korean but for the time being his focus is exclusively on the fight with Kelly at the 16,000 capacity Stadium Putra.
"Bae Young Kwon is the only fighter to beat me and I took that fight at short notice and also it was my first time fighting at 145 pounds, before I was fighting at 159 pounds for the URCC so that was a big difference for me. Next time I know I will do better but first I must beat Eric and win the belt."
Team Lakay is home to many of the top fighters from the Philippines and Kevin Belingon is in the semifinals of the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix after an emphatic win over Yusup Saadulaev while Eduard Folayang is in contention for the lightweight belt.
Rey Docyogen is also in pole position to challenge for the flyweight strap once that division is established but Banario will be the first member of Team Lakay to take part in a ONE FC title match and he is determined to bring the belt back to Baguio.
"Me and Eric are both from Baguio but he lives in Malaysia now and I want to bring the belt back to the Philippines and the Lakay gym. We have won titles in URCC, PXC and Martial Combat but ONE FC is the biggest promotion of all and to be the first Team Lakay fighter to win a ONE FC belt would be a big honor for me."
Whatever happens on February 2nd the first ever ONE FC World Featherweight Champion will be a Filipino but that won't be any consolation to Banario if he loses. Unlike Kelly, who is unbeaten, he has experienced defeat once before and it left a bitter taste which he is determined never to sample again.
Between them the two featherweights from Baguio have 12 submission wins but Banario does not believe that ground fighting will be a feature of this fight.
"I won my last fight with striking and I want to do the same against Eric. People used to enjoy watching us sparring because we both have the same style of standup, we both dream about winning the belt and only one of us can make that dream come true, it will be a war."