After losing out in his first crack at ONE Championship flyweight gold, Filipino star Danny “The King” Kingad is back on form and back in the frame for a title shot.
The 9-1 contender from Baguio City rebounded from his November 2017 defeat to ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes with an impressive unanimous decision win over seasoned veteran Sotir “The Trouble” Kichukov at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in March.
Now, the 22-year-old will return to the ONE Championship cage looking to have his hand raised again as he pushes towards another title bout later this year.
Kingad faces rising Chinese star Ma Hao Bin at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, which takes place on Saturday, 23 June in Macau.
The Team Lakay product has been working tirelessly in training to ensure he produces the sort of performance he needs to win impressively on the night.
“Training is, as usual, very tough,” he says.
“We are drilling very hard each and every day. I am still working on all areas, be it my striking or my grappling.
“Knowing my opponent is a good wrestler, however, I am particularly working on my takedown defence for this match. I want to keep this fight standing, so I have worked very hard on my takedown defence.”
Kingad’s striking credentials have never been up for debate, but his ground skills came under intense scrutiny when he faced World Champion Moraes in Manila.
The Brazilian’s superior jiu-jitsu skills were evident in that contest, as “Mikinho” submitted the Filipino challenger in the first round via rear-naked choke.
That defeat sparked Kingad into even more intensive training, as he looked to close the gaps in his game by improving his grappling skills.
“I went home, watched the tape, and tried to analyse what I did good and what I did wrong. It was a good learning experience for me,” he explains.
“I love studying – not just my opponents, but also myself. Whenever I discover weaknesses in my game, it makes me feel good, because then I know what to work on.”
His relentless work ethic in training, coupled with his desire to improve all aspects of his skill-set, paid off in his latest match-up, when Kingad showed a more well-rounded mixed martial arts game en route to a decision win over Bulgaria’s Kichukov.
That improvement, Kingad says, couldn’t have come without first being exposed in that contest with Moraes. The defeat may have stung, but the lessons learned from it left “The King” grateful for the experience.
“Making mistakes is a blessing, because that is where you can focus your efforts and improve,” he explains.
“You never really lose a fight. There is always something to take away from it. When I am able to work on fixing my mistakes, that is where I gain confidence.
“The win over Kichukov really added a lot to my confidence, which was one of the things I was lacking in previous bouts. He was tougher than I thought he was going to be, which is great. I love tough challenges – they help me grow as a competitor.”
Now blessed with a more well-rounded skillset and the target of a World Title bout ahead of him, Kingad heads into ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER excited for his matchup with Ma, whose successes so far in ONE Championship have come off the back of a strong wrestling and submission-based approach.
“I want to test his stand-up game. I believe I am stronger, faster, and more explosive than he is,” Kingad says.
“I am definitely going for a knockout in this match. Although, if he does take me to the ground, I will be ready for anything.”