Gina “Conviction” Iniong returns to action at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR on 20 April, looking to bounce back as a better martial artist.
Last November, the 6-3 athlete from Team Lakay lost out to top atomweight contender Mei Yamaguchi via unanimous decision after stepping in on short notice, but the Filipina was still able to take positives from the defeat.
“I was nervous, and I really wanted to win, so that took me out of my element a little bit,” she told ONE Championship.
“I learned my lesson now, and moving forward, I have to be confident and relaxed going into the cage. I worked very hard on my grappling, because it has been a consistent weak point in my game.”
Iniong returns to face former title challenger Jenny Huang at the Mall of Asia Arena, and says that she knows the matchup is a must-win bout for her, as she bids to bounce back and cement herself as a contender in the atomweight division.
“There is a lot of pressure on me to perform, because I am considered one of the top competitors in the division. Although I consider myself still in the development process, a lot is expected of me, and with each bout, I have to give it my absolute best,” she said.
“I know if I had beaten Mei in my last bout, I would have come very close to a title shot. Instead, I was a step slower the entire night, and I lost. Still, I was happy to be able to showcase my skills in such a huge bout.”
Iniong joined ONE Championship in April 2017, and tore through fellow countrywoman Natalie “The Kilapino” Gonzales Hills in her promotional debut at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY. The Team Lakay striker decimated Hills with a fierce stand-up game to claim a unanimous decision victory.
She followed that up with a second-round TKO victory over Indonesian star Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in November.
For “Conviction,” those were pivotal moments in her career. Not only did winning on the global stage provide a massive boost to her confidence, but it reaffirmed she was more than capable of competing against the world’s best athletes.
“To be honest, being able to perform in front of millions of fans is a dream come true for me,” she reveals.
“I never imagined I would be at this level, but through hard work and the belief that my coaches have shown in me, I made it to ONE Championship. I am truly proud to be here.”
The matchup pits the six-time Philippines national wushu champion against black belt judoka Huang in a classic striker versus grappler matchup.
Iniong says that while she’s looking to keep the bout on the feet, if the bout does go to the mat, she’ll be ready.
“I know I have to keep the action standing, but in case we do hit the ground, I will be prepared. Victory is always on my mind, especially during training. It is what motivates me,” she stated.
“Jenny Huang is a very talented martial artist, and a former world title challenger. I cannot underestimate her, even for a second. Most of her wins have come by submission, so I have to be really careful. But this should be a good test of my grappling skills, to see if I have improved in this area. I always want to test myself against the best.”
Victory for Iniong could see her positioned perfectly to take on the winner of the upcoming title bout between reigning champion Angela Lee and top contender Yamaguchi.
While she insists she’s not taking her eyes off the challenge in front of her, Iniong says she’ll want a title shot if she’s victorious.
“I want whoever wins that match, but I am not looking past Jenny Huang right now. I know what’s at stake here,” Iniong said.
“This is another opportunity for me to prove that I am ready to face the champion, and if I can beat a former world title challenger, then I can move up in my career.”
“Both Angela and Mei are extremely tough competitors. It should be a very entertaining match. I will be watching it closely.”