Often the most exciting opportunities in life are the ones you never thought you were going to get. Last month Honorio Banario was training hard twice a day with his Team Lakay team mates just on the off chance that he would get the call to compete at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation'.
As more and more fights were announced it seemed less likely that the URCC Lightweight champion would get his wish but then came the phone call he had been waiting for, asking him if he would be interested in a featherweight fight with fellow Filipino Andrew Benibe.
Having set his heart on an appearance at the biggest MMA event to ever take place in the Philippines the 23 year old had no hesitation in accepting the offer and is ecstatic that he will be playing a part in such an historic event,
"I really wanted to get on that card and Coach Mark Sangiao just told us to train hard every day in case we got the opportunity from the ONE FC but because two of my team mates had opponent and I hadn't heard anything I thought I would miss out. I was so happy when I found out I would be fighting and I am going to make sure I give the ONE FC fans a good performance to remember my name by."
Banario's fight will be the first of the night and sees the fighter from the mountains of Baguio go up against the Manila based Benibe and he is proud to be representing the countryside in the big city,
"Igorot people are famous warriors and I think training in the mountains makes all the Team Lakay fighters very strong and tough because we go running in the wind and in the rain and Baguio is 1,500 metres above sea level so when we fight in Manila everything is easier for us."
After winning the first six fights of his career and claiming the URCC lightweight title Banario dropped down to 145 lbs for the first time to face Bae Young Kwon at ONE FC in Jakarta. Things did not go according to plan and he was submitted very early on in that fight, a loss he is determined to avenge,
"It was a big disappointment for me because I trained hard and the fight was over very fast. It was my first time at 145 lbs, before that I had always fought at 159 lbs, so that was new to me but I should have done better and I want to fight Bae Young Kwon again. I am confident I can beat him and I hope the ONE FC will give me that chance."
Before that loss Banario was regarded as one of the top prospects in the Philippines, particularly because he had been competing at above his natural weight. He submitted the previously undefeated Angelito Manguray almost nine minutes into the second round to claim the URCC lightweight title and won all of his first six fights by stoppage including a spectacular side kick to the head which finished Alcer Lozada last year.
Two of his team mates, Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon, will be in action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on August 31st and Banario has trained extensively with fellow featherweight Eric Kelly who is also from Baguio,
"I sparred a lot with Eric before his first fight for ONE FC but he does not train in Baguio anymore and I train with Eduard and Kevin everyday. I spar with Eduard a lot because me and him are almost the same size and Kevin as well, he is smaller than me but his is very fast."
A win for Banario would get his career back on track and he hopes it would also move him up the ONE FC rankings and allow him to fight more regularly,
"I fought four times last year but this will only be my second fight this year. ONE FC is the biggest organization in Asia and has some of the best fighters in Asia so there is a lot of competition and I know I need to win and to fight very well if I want to fight again soon."
Banario comes from a Wushu background and is primarily a stand up fighter although he also has some explosive takedowns. As the first fight of the night he could set the tone for the entire show and with 16,5000 fans expected to fill the Smart Araneta Coliseum he has the following message,
"Don't arrive late if you want to see my fight because I have never been to a decision, normally I finish the fight in the first round. I am very aggressive and I like to fight quickly and to attack a lot, I can fight for 15 minutes if I need to but I want to finish this fight in the first round and I believe that is what will happen."
ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation' is set for Manila on August 31st. Banario's fight will be on the undercard which is completely free to view online while the entire show will cost 10 USD. For more information visit: http://www.onefc.livesport.tv/