Gustavo Balart locked horns with Japanese grappling ace Tatsumitsu Wada in his ONE Championship debut. The crowd at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila taunted Balart who, at just 4’11”, stood an incredible eight inches shorter than Wada.

Due to the size difference they assumed Wada would win easily. But they were wrong and the laughter turned to cheers as the Cuban was able to use his wrestling to control the action, at one point picking Wada up and carrying him over his shoulders before throwing him down,

Everyone in the arena at ONE: ‘Roots of Honor’ felt Balart had done enough to win but all three judges awarded the decision to Wada,

“I was heartbroken. I should have won that fight,” Balart said.

However he feels vindicated by the reaction from the fans in the Philippines,

“I was surprised when I heard the results. I did it everything inside the cage against Wada. The crowd also knew I won. Yeah, I lost. But at least most of the people who watched knew the real winner.”

Learning curve

The general consensus was that Balart should have had his hand raised but he learned never to allow a bout to go to the hands of the judges,

“The only mistake that I committed in that fight is I left it at the hands of the judges. That’s all. It’s crucial. I learned my lesson the hard way,” he said.

Four months later, he is now ready to leave that painful part of his professional career behind him.

Eager to erase the memory of his loss, Balart returns to action this Friday as he squares off with Cambodia’s Chan Rothana at ONE: ‘Dreams Of Gold’ at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.

Better version

Balart guarantees a better version of himself as he crosses paths with Rothana who aced his last two assignments in devastating fashion.

“Coming into this bout, I have renewed confidence now. Surely, I am training hard. I am motivated to show the world that I am worthy to compete on an international stage like ONE Championship,” he stated.

“What I’ve seen from my opponent is that he’s a good striker. He knows how to keep the pressure on. I’m just going to stick to my techniques and just tweak it if I need to, but on the day of the fight, I’m going to demonstrate what I’ve got and how I’m going to beat him,” Balart added.

Balart knows that he has a lot more going for him that could swing the bout in his favor, making sure that fans would remember his name once again.

“I know that I am the stronger fighter. I got my wrestling and striking on point. My prediction is that I will finish the fight within two rounds. I’ll do my best to put on a show,” he vowed.