For Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, taking out the best fighters in the division is the best way to prove your way back to the top of the rankings.
Sangiao believes so and has put faith in his bantamweight fighter Kevin Belingon who will face former UFC veteran John Lineker in ONE: Inside the Matrix III at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Friday night.
“This is the path back to the belt. Kevin has to take out the top opposition. If you want to be the best, you have to fight the best, and this is it,” said the 41-year-old Sangiao, adding that Belingon has been eager to fight Lineker in the first place.
The Team Lakay patriarch expects an all-out brawl from the two and wants to see what Brazil’s “Hands of Stone” is bringing at the table when he takes on “The Silencer” of the Philippines.
Sangiao is confident that Belingon, the No. 1 bantamweight contender, can defeat No. 5 Lineker on a note that whoever emerges victoriously deserves a title shot against current champion Bibiano Fernandes.
Belingon, for his part, has set sights for Lineker before looking at the bigger picture, citing his advantages in being more agile and having a better endurance ahead of fight night despite the same striking prowess up in their sleeves.
“I am totally motivated for this fight since I have not fought in a while, and it would be good to be back in the winner’s column. My last fight against Bibiano was disappointing, but I’ve learned from it. I just have to be more cautious with my moves,” said the 33-year old Belingon.
It can be recalled that Belingon, holding a 20-7 record, has won only one of his four fights against Fernandes which includes a January 2016 matchup and a trilogy from 2018 to 2019.
Belingon lost to Fernandes in 2016 before sparking a strong seven-match win streak from late 2016 to November 2018. After defeating Martin Nguyen for the interim bantamweight belt, the Igorot warrior eventually won the official title four months later by defeating Fernandes via split decision.
“For me to return to that form, I just have to keep the same fire burning, if not fuel it more,” said Belingon.
The Filipino fighter, however, was unfortunate in March the following year due to a disqualification, losing his title to Fernandes in the process. Seven months later, the Brazilian champion submitted Belingon in the second-round with a rear-naked choke to retain the bantamweight belt.
And Belingon, likewise, echoed his mentor’s sentiments and felt that a win against Lineker, who has a 32-9 record, would take him a step closer to another crack at the championship.
“Ever since John Lineker signed with ONE, all I’ve been hearing and reading from the fans is Belingon versus Lineker. Now it’s finally here, and I’m excited for it. Expect fireworks. Expect it to be a good one.”