2019 definitely did not go according to plan for Kevin Belingon. He lost two fights out of two at the hands of Bibiano Fernandes, the first due to a no contest and the second by way of submission.

For Belingon it was an abrupt fall from grace. The previous two years had been the best of his career, winning six fights out of six and beating the likes of Martin Nguyen and Fernandes to become the undisputed ONE Championship bantamweight king.

He now has three losses to Fernandes on his record. A fifth fight seems unlikely so any aspirations Belingon has of regaining that bantamweight belt are on hold for the time being.

But the 32 year old says he has been working on his weaknesses during what promises to be a lengthy off season,

“Now, I am focused on the ground game and my wrestling. Of course, I won’t relax on my specialty either – my striking. But then again, reviewing my match with Bibiano, I am really lacking on the ground and wrestling, so that’s what I am looking at right now.”

Ready for anyone

Team Lakay has continued to train behind closed doors. When fight cards are able to resume the Baguio based fighters should be ready for immediate action.

Belingon still hoped to fight in Manila next month although that is looking increasingly unlikely,

“My target, hopefully, is the May event here in the Philippines. That is what I am looking at,” he said.

Shoko Sato was rumoured to be next in line for a title shot while Shuya Kamikubo and Troy Worthen are also emerging as top contenders. Yusup Saadulaev, who Belingon beat back in 2012, is in good form too.

For Belingon the identity of his next opponent is not important,

“There are a lot of names in the bantamweight division. Whoever they give me I’ll take them on,” he said.

Barn burner

Fernandes recently turned 40 and the Brazilian surely can’t continue to compete forever. While Belingon hasn’t got a particular timescale in mind he does want to challenge for the title a third time,

“The most important thing is to get back to my winning ways and compete for the title once more. That’s the goal – to get back on top and get the belt.”

Aside from Fernandes the only fighters to have beaten Belingon are Dae Hwan Kim, Masakatsu Ueda, Soo Chul Kim and Masakazu Imanari. In every one of the fights he has either been outwrestled or submitted.

It is an open secret that Belingon’s specialty is his striking. So perhaps it is no surprise to hear that the Filipino wants a shot at the man who was once regarded as one of the most devastating stand up specialists in the UFC,

“It will be exciting if they give me John Lineker. It will be a very good match. He has excellent striking and he is really good. So if we cross paths it will be a barn burner for sure.”