One Championship

One: Reign of Kings – Philippine fighters call on Manny Pacquiao to fight in Manila

Belingon (19-5) claims the interim world bantamweight title with a comprehensive victory over two division champ Martin ‘The Situ-Asian’ Nguyen (11-3)

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 11:29pm

The Philippines’ leading mixed martial artists have joined a growing chorus calling on boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao to return home to Manila to defend his latest world title under the One Championship banner.

“I hope this will happen, all fighters hope this will happen, and everybody in the Philippines hopes this will happen,” said Philippine bantamweight Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon.

“Manny Pacquiao came from nothing to become something so he is a huge inspiration for all of us.”

Belingon (19-5) was speaking to the Post shortly after winning the One’s interim world bantamweight title with a comprehensive victory over two division Vietnamese-Australian champ Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen (11-3) at the Mall of Asia Arena late on Friday night.

The victory sets up a showdown with One’s current bantamweight title holder Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (22-3) of Brazil – who appeared in the cage at the end of proceedings to accept Belingon’s challenge.

Asked if he would like to fight Fernandes for the title in Manila, Belingon smiled broadly and said: “Of course.”

Asked if he’d like the fight to be on a “mega-card” that featured Pacquiao – as first mooted by One founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong earlier in the week – Belingon broke into laughter, and then he said: “That would be the greatest.”

“We all watched Manny Pacquiao’s last title fight and we all support him,” said Belingon. “It would be history to be on a card with Manny Pacquiao as the main event so every fighter in the Philippines would want to part of that. I cannot wait for that to happen.”

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Sityodtong first brought up the notion of a card in Manila featuring Pacquiao this past Tuesday. One has in recent times branched out from mixed martial arts to stand-up disciplines such as Muay Thai and two weeks ago formally moved into co-promoting boxing by signing on with Thailand’s WBC world super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The organisation would be chasing a similar co-promotion deal with Pacquiao, who is currently handled by his own MP Promotions.

“I’d love to see him defend his title in the Philippines and give Filipino fans what they want in a mega card,” Sityodtong had said. “Manny, let’s do it.”

The 39-year-old Pacquiao (60-7-2) was back to his best in taking the WBA welterweight title off Argentine Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 15. The hand speed had returned, as had the killer instinct.

Pacquiao now has cities across Southeast Asia – and beyond – clamouring to sign him up for a title defence with a stream of possible opponents being thrown out there, including now-retired American multiple world champion Floyd Mayweather.

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Local press in Manila reported this week that Pacquiao is looking at December 2 as the date for his title defence.

One’s chances of beating them all off and bringing the man back to Manila are strengthened by the fact that Pacquiao has been a shareholder in Asia’s largest martial arts promotion company since 2014.

Loren Mack, One’s vice-president of PR and communications, was asked by the Post as the lights came down on Friday whether the organisation might be able to stack a possible Pacquiao-led card with title fights featuring the Philippines’ best MMA talent

“Yes,” he said. “A million times yes.”

Friday night’s results on the One: Reign of Kings card added considerable weight to the notion that a possible mega card in Manila would come stacked with local talent – and with title fights featuring them.

Pacquiao has not fought in Manila since he scored a unanimous points decision over Mexico’s Oscar Larios in Quezon City on July, 2006. A return by the wildly popular congressman would be an instant sell-out.

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As well as a Belingon-Fernandes title bout, the One organisation could also feature former world lightweight champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang (20-6), who overpowered Russia’s Aziz Pahrudinov (20-1-1) on Friday.

Rising strawweight star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (12-2) also put himself in the title picture in his division with first-round victory over Thai talent Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit (9-1) on the Reign of Kings card.

Philippine-American Brandon “The Truth” Vera (15-7) is currently One’s world heavyweight champion – and must be itching to return to the cage after an absence of 18 months while his focus has shifted to a budding career as an action film star.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (11-6) recently claimed One’s flyweight belt and was in Manila at Friday night’s card to support his teammates from the powerful Team Lakay stable.

“To see a Filipino legend fight in front of us, and to be part of that fight card would just be a dream come true,” said Eustaquio.