Gina Iniong wants to be Baguio’s first female MMA champion
Last December a parade was held in Baguio to honour the city’s five world champions. They all fight out of Team Lakay and they were all men, something their team mate Gina Iniong couldn’t help but notice,
“My ultimate goal is to also become a champion and become the pride of Baguio City. We don’t have a female champion yet, particularly in mixed martial arts,” she said ahead of her matchup with Jihin Radzuan in Bangkok this Saturday.
Iniong has been pro since 2010 and had faced some top fighters. Before putting pen to paper on a ONE Championship contract she had already faced UFC stars Cortney Casey-Sanchez and Xiaonan Yan as well as beating JMMA veteran Mei Yamaguchi by split decision.
At ONE: ‘Clash of Legends’ she faces an undefeated opponent who has fought just four times. It gives the 29 year old an advantage in terms of experience and she thinks this will be key,
“My first impression of Jihin is that she is humble and a good sport, but I think she should watch out for me. I think I have the edge in experience,” she said.
Well rounded opponent
However Iniong has plenty of respect for her opponent ahead of what could turn out to be an atomweight title eliminator,
“What I know of Jihin Radzuan is she is well rounded. I watched her last fight, and I was really amazed with her last performance.”
Team Lakay’s fortunes might have dipped slightly in recent weeks. But the fighters, who nearly all come from wushu backgrounds, are always well rounded and seldom get submitted despite going up against decorated grapplers.
Iniong sees some of these traits in her upcoming opponent,
“Her ground game is good. Some athletes are focused on striking only while others only focus on their ground game. But you can see that Jihin’s striking and ground game are both very good.”
But the Filipina has identified one weakness that she plans to exploit,
“Jihin’s weakness is her striking,” she said.
Iniong has seen Honorio Banario, Eduard Folayang, Joshua Pacio, Geje Eustaquio and Kevin Belingon become ONE Championship champions. She’s also been around long enough to remember Crisanto Pitpitunge winning a PXC belt and five different team mates earning titles with URCC,
“I get my strength from seeing my teammates and my seniors with their own belts. I am the only one who is yet to have one so I am really envious. They always tell me, ‘You’re the last one. You have a huge chance to get the belt, so don’t waste it’,” she said.
Reigning ONE Championship atomweight queen Angela Lee looks set to vacate that belt in order to pursue her strawweight ambitions. That leaves a vacancy and it is one Iniong would like the opportunity to fill.
She is currently 1-1 against Yamaguchi although promotional newcomers Meng Bo, Heqin Lin and Ayaka Miura also have the potential to shake up the atomweight division. A win over an undefeated contender would certainly enhance Iniong’s title credentials and she already knows how Saturday’s fight will finish.
Radzuan’s greatest strength might be her grappling but Iniong says she will finish her on the ground,
“I trained very hard for this fight. I really prepared and am determined to win. I predict that our match will end in the second round through ground and pound.”