Andrew Leone heads into ONE: HEROES OF HONOR looking to force his way back into world title contention – and a potential rematch.
Leone takes on Filipino Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon in the main event, in a battle between fellow former world title challengers at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, 20 April.
The 28-year-old American, who now bases himself out of Bali, says he’s been working tirelessly to raise his game, after falling short in his title tilt against reigning ONE Bantamweight Champion Bibiano Fernandes eight months ago.
“I have been working hard since then,” he told ONE Championship.
“I am looking forward to this opportunity against Kevin Belingon. The winner gets the rematch [with Bibiano Fernandes], and I am excited for this opportunity that ONE Championship has provided, making us the headliner on arguably the biggest card in ONE history.
“We are going to go out there and put on a good performance for the Filipino fans, and for the world.”
Losing a world title bout can be a crushing disappointment after climbing to within touching distance of the summit, only to be denied at the final moment.
Despite that setback, Leone has remained positive, and is determined to earn a second shot to put things right in the rematch.
“Everyone is trying to win the belt. I want to get that rematch with Bibiano,” he said.
“I want to show everyone, and show to myself, that plays out differently nine out of 10 times. I am looking forward to that opportunity.”
Leone is well aware that he faces a man on exactly the same mission. Belingon battled his way into title contention only to lose out to Brazilian Fernandes in his title opportunity in January 2016.
“He is another tough guy,” he says.
“ONE Championship has given me tough matches since I signed with them, and I would not have it any other way.
“My first match was against Geje Eustaquio. My second match was against the number one guy in the world for years, Shinichi Kojima, somebody I looked up to when I was younger when he was competing in Shooto. He was the champion in my weight [class]. I got that win over him.
“Then, I faced Koetsu Okazaki, another Shooto champ, and another guy who has a lot of wins over top bantamweights in ONE. So Belingon is another tough opponent, and I am looking forward to our match.”
It’s a pivotal contest for both men, and for the ONE bantamweight division, with the winner likely to move on to challenge for the belt again.
Leone has no qualms about sharing his gameplan for the matchup, as he states his case for victory on 20 April.
“[I will be] trying to win all the moments, [and] trying to be dominant. That is the game plan: dominance,” Leone said.
“Belingon is a tough guy, [he is] knocking everybody out. I look forward to going in there, and strangling him.”