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Belingon eyes return to summit of stacked bantamweight division

Belingon eyes return to summit of stacked bantamweight division

Kevin Belingon wants to savor that championship feeling anew. —TRISTAN TAMAYO/INQUIRER.NET

You’d think that after a pair of botched attempts to reclaim ONE’s Bantamweight crown, Kevin Belingon would set his eyes on another weight class.

But no. He’s staying where he is right now.

“Never actually considered moving,” Belingon told the Inquirer in Filipino on Friday night. “I want to stay a bantamweight. All the more now that [the division is] filled with high-profile names.”

ONE’s bantamweight class features the likes of Thai champ Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, China’s Li Kai Wen, Indonesian Sunoto, Tajikistan’s Muin Gafurov, Russian Yusup Saadulaev and former UFC standout John Lineker.

The current quarantine forced on the country by the COVID-19 pandemic has given Belingon a chance to refocus his energy on regaining his champion’s perch.

“It’s actually refreshing,” he said of being quarantined. “We’re improvising. We have surfaces to which we could latch our [striking] pads.”

Belingon, a former bantamweight champion in the Asian promotion, knows the road back to the top will be testy.

The Ifugao native has twice faced Bibiano Fernandes, once ONE’s longest-reigning champion, but was unable to turn back the Brazilian jiujitsu specialist to prove his title-clinching victory in 2018 was no fluke.

“Facing Bibiano has taught me plenty of lessons,” the 32-year-old striker said. “And it showed me just how much more I need to work on, especially with my ground game.”

For now, Belingon is keeping his nose on the grindstone, in case he is called up to fight on May 29, ONE’s targeted return date to live events. INQ

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