In a typical Filipino household, parents encourage their children to focus on their studies in order to have good grades on their report cards and ultimately achieve a bright future.

When parents talk of a ‘real career’ they refer to white-collared professions like donning a white medical gown with a stethoscope in hand, wearing a business suit in a corporate setting, or holding a blueprint on a high-rise site with a hard hat.

MMA does not require an educational background, which is why most people connote a social stigma to it by assuming that all it takes is hard guts to endure the punishing blows inside the cage.

But homegrown talent Danny Kingad does not conform to this particular stereotype. He is pursuing his prize fighting dreams while studying for bachelor’s degree in education at the University of the Cordilleras.

Dual commitments

Kingad, who studies in the morning and trains in the afternoon, admitted that it is not easy balancing his time between the two commitments,

“I am still studying but I learned how to manage my time with the help of my coaches and senior teammates. I love this sport. I love to compete because this is my passion,” he said.

Kingad had to minimize his units per semester to properly manage his professional career and academics but the 23 year old has reaped the rewards as his name is starting to get recognized in the world of MMA,

Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao believes that Kingad could be the next big thing in the sport, following in the footsteps of his seniors such as Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Geje Eustaquio.

For Kingad it’s an honour to hear his name mentioned alongside those of his illustrious team mates,

“There’s no pressure on my part. To me it’s a privilege to hear that from Coach Mark. I believe in what he said because I train with the best,” said Kingad.

Foremost priority

Although the sport offers fame and fortune, Kingad insisted that education remains as his foremost priority, knowing that he will need to engage in another source of income as being a professional athlete is not a job for life,

“Education is very important because my career as a fighter will not last for a long time. By the time I reach 38 or 40 years old, I need to retire and have another day job to support my family,” he said

Kingad sees his education as something to fall back on when his fighting days are finished,

“Even though I love fighting, there will be a time in my life as a fighter that I will have to call it a day in competing. Meanwhile, education is something that I can use as I grow older,” Kingad added.

Small changes

As Kingad continues to juggle his attention between schoolwork and MMA, he is gearing up for the semi-final round of the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix.

He is slated to lock horns with Reece McLaren at ONE: ‘Dawn Of Heroes’ on Friday night. Kingad was originally penciled to face former flyweight kingpin Kairat Akhmetov, but the latter withdrew from the tournament due to an injury.

McLaren stepped in to take Akhmetov’s place after initially bowing out of the eight-man tourney to the Kazakh warrior this past March.

It does not appear that Kingad is bothered by the sudden change of opponent, though his team had to tweak his plan of attack on fight night.

“There are little changes we made in my game plan. But honestly, I don’t think there’s much difference in training. It’s pretty much the same. The game plan is to strike and to defend the ground well. I’ll try to keep the fight standing,” he revealed.

Same level

Kingad believes McLaren is just as good as Akhmetov and knows better than to underestimate the challenge in front of him,

“I think they’re at the same level. Just for me, they’re pretty much the same. Reece is very technical on the ground and that’s what I’m trying to avoid. I don’t think I’ll have a problem in the striking department because that’s my game plan,” he assessed.

Much like a final examination before the end of every college semester, Kingad seeks to ace his upcoming test against McLaren,

“I believe in what I am capable of. I think I can compete with him on the ground and especially in striking.”

Surprise in store

The Filipino also hinted that he has a surprise in store for Mclaren,

“Whether it be by knockout, submission or decision, my target is to win. I have something to show , something he won’t expect.”

Kingad will be proudly representing the Philippines in Manila this Friday. But he is also flying the flag for students everywhere and want to show that being a fighter does not preclude someone from being well educated,

“I am giving everything I have in training for this fight. It will be a testament that pursuing your passion is not a hindrance in securing your future through education. It is also one way of breaking the stigma that fighters have in our society.”