DANNY Kingad has dreamed about becoming a mixed martial arts world champion since he began his training, and he has the chance to achieve that against Demetrious Johnson.
On Sunday, October 13 at ONE: Century Part I, Team Lakay’s young gun will challenge arguably the greatest athlete the sport has ever seen in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship final.
The Filipino star is sure to be the underdog against such an iconic athlete, but he has no fear about the challenge he is set to face in Tokyo, Japan because of a formative experience a couple of years ago.
In November 2017 at the age of 22, Kingad was thrust into a ONE flyweight world title bout with Adriano Moraes, but he admits it was an opportunity he was not ready for.
“Something was missing. He beat me,” he concedes. “First and foremost, my shortcoming in that bout is related to my nervousness. It was my first time for the World Title shot, so I really got nervous. I was unable to follow my game plan because it slipped my mind when I was inside the cage competing,” said Kingad.
This was not the man we have come to know since that time – the energetic, all-action entertainer who has taken part in some of the most spectacular 15-minute contests in ONE history against some of the best in his division.
Against Moraes, he was hesitant and stood right in front of his rival. He did not set up his shots, so Moraes was easily able to catch a low kick and take him down in the first round.
That should not have been terminal for “The King’s” chances, but he looked lost on the ground against the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
In a desperate attempt to escape, he gave up his back, and that presented the defending World Champion with a golden opportunity to finish. Moments later, Moraes locked up a rear-naked choke, and Kingad was quick to tap.
“What I learned in that bout is to not have my nervousness get the best of me. Your mind and heart should not falter,” he says. If you hesitate, everything will be lost. You will lose your game plan too. You will get weak. I also learned to keep your game plan in mind. You should stick with it and execute. Do not panic, because if you panic, you will ruin your game plan.”
That defeat could have been demoralizing for the man from Baguio City, but he did not let it discourage him for long.
He went straight back into the gym to fix everything that he did wrong – including undertaking a complete overhaul of his grappling repertoire.
Kingad got straight back into the win column, but after every bout, he has reviewed his performance and isolated what else he needed to work on so that he could fix as many of the holes in his game as possible.
That propelled him to six consecutive wins against elite opposition and took him to the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship final.
“In the last two years, I was able to develop as a mixed martial artist because I watch all my mistakes, and worked on them in the gym so I can prevent them from happening again in my next bouts,” he says. “I used to be very impulsive, but now I realize that I am more relaxed and tactical. I also improved my ground game.”
Now, the new-and-improved Kingad is ready to face Johnson at ONE: CENTURY and win the tournament crown.
The American will be the favorite thanks to his history as a 12-time flyweight World Champion, but the Filipino has no doubt he can pull off the upset, win gold, and book a rematch with Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
“It’s a different Danny Kingad after that defeat. We are training differently now,” he adds. “I am more focused now. I am more determined to get the World Title. That loss developed me to be more mature. I am ready to achieve that World Title.” (PR)