Kevin Belingon has consistently beaten the best bantamweights in the region despite his walking weight being only 63 kgs. The 24 year old Filipino could easily make flyweight but after suffering only one loss in ten fights he is happy to continue taking on bigger opponents, at least for the time being,
"I am 63 kgs now, if I have the opportunity I can make 125 but I have no problem fighting bigger fighters and I spar with Eduard (Folayang) and Honorio (Banario). My team mates Geje Eustaquio and Rey Docyogen are both signed with ONE FC and they are flyweight so if it was possible for someone from Team Lakay to fight for the title Coach Mark would have to decide who he wanted it to be."
‘Coach’ Mark Sangiao is the man behind Team Lakay which is currently home to URCC welterweight champion Eduard Folayang, URCC lightweight champion Honorio Banario, URCC pinweight champion Rey Docyogen and newly crowned PXC bantamweight champion Crisanto Pitpitunge.
The vast majority of the fighters have studied at the University of the Cordilleras in Baguio at some stage and this is how Belingon first met the man who would become his long term coach and mentor,
"I first met Mark in 2005 because I studied criminology and he was teaching us defence tactics, that was how I met him and started training with him at the gym. Back then Rey (Docyogen) and Eduard (Folayang) were my seniors."
Belingon was introduced to Wushu by Sangiao, who is also a criminology graduate, and he went on to win medals at both a regional and national level
"I have finished at university and my focus now is on MMA not Wushu. I wanted to be a policeman but now I am a full time fighter, this is my focus and I am training two times a day. I rest on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday and when I am not fighting I do not train as much."
Belingon experienced the ignominy of defeat for the first time in his career when he made his ONE FC debut in March. The caliber of the opponent might have been exceptional, Japanese leg lock wizard Masakazu Imanari, but for the 24 year old Filipino that did little to diminish the disappointment,
"I did a big mistake, he went down and I wanted to kick him in the head but it was illegal because the referee was not signaling open guard so I started to kick his head and then I stopped but by then he had already grabbed my leg."
Once Imanari gets a hold of your leg the only question is whether you tap out before or after he inflicts a serious injury and fortunately for Belingon he did not suffer any serious damage, other than to his previously perfect professional record and his pride.
Losing was an unfamiliar sensation, one he had never previously experienced in his MMA career and Belingon is determined not to suffer a similar fate when he takes on tough Korean Soo Chul Kim at ONE FC: ‘Pride of a Nation’ in Manila,
"I don’t know anything about Soo Chul Kim but I am sure he is a good fighter, I haven’t seen his fights yet but this week we will maybe review the videos. Losing to Imanari was like a challenge to me to train even harder because it was my first time being beaten."
Belingon has already beaten one Korean fighter, he won a unanimous decision against Nam Jin Jo who, until recently, was ranked as a top ten flyweight by Sherdog. Going the distance has never been a problem for this Filipino fighter and he thinks there are a number of factors behind his renowned endurance,
"At Team Lakay we train at altitude and in the cold but we train hard. When we go to Manila or Singapore we adapt to the climate and it feels easier. I also think fighting 10 minute rounds for the URCC pushes you to train hard and gives you good cardio and makes it easier to fight five minute rounds."
Belingon is the URCC flyweight (129 lbs limit) champion although he has been competing at 135 lbs recently. Four weeks out from fight night he is walking at only a kilo above the bantamweight limit and will consider dropping down in weight once his next fight is out of the way,
Only a handful of his team mates have had the opportunity to test themselves outside of the Philippines but Belingon has fought all over Asia and has defeated opponents from Thailand, Korea, China and Guam.
His 2010 win over Nam Jin Jo was so impressive that it brought him to the attention of the UFC who expressed an interest in acquiring his services and Belingon feels he has benefitted from being able to fight against such a diverse range of opponents,
"I have learned lots of things from fighting different fighters with different skills. My style depends on my opponent, if he is a ground fighter I will go with striking but if he is a striker I will take my opportunity to go to the ground."
Given his record and the fact that he could easily drop down to flyweight Belingon is probably still on the UFC radar but he is fully focused on registering his first win for ONE FC,
"I’m very happy to be fighting for ONE FC because it is the biggest MMA promotion here in Asia. . Imanari is the hardest fighter I have ever fought but if I have the chance I would like to fight him again, I want to be a champion of ONE FC."