PH’s Krisna Limbaga hopes to translate Muay Thai success in ONE Championship

Filipino female kickboxer Krisna Limbaga seeks to defy odds by translating her in-ring accomplishment into the ONE Championship cage as she makes her professional debut on Friday, 23 February.

In her first appearance as a ONE Championship athlete, Limbaga squares off with Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol of Indonesia in a three-round atomweight contest at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, which takes place at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

Owning an impressive record of 35-5 in Muay Thai, Limbaga is now ready to carry over her wealth of combat experience and exceptional skills on the ultimate proving grounds of martial arts.

“I am very excited and little bit nervous for this upcoming bout,” she said. “This is my debut match as a pro and in ONE Championship. Everybody knows ONE Championship is a big event that draws huge audiences. I am training very hard for my bout to get the victory.”

The challenge of entering the mixed martial arts world seems to be inevitable for Limbaga, who is always looking for something to improve as a competitor and as a person.

“It’s an honor to represent the Philippines and to showcase my skills inside the cage,” she stated. “I’m getting better, getting stronger and learning more as day goes by.”

In deep training for her cage encounter with Gaol, the 28-year-old resident of Marikina City, Metro Manila is focused on learning all the disciplines that are necessary in her new martial arts journey.

“My training camp is progressing very well.​ I’ve had to learn how to mix up the different martial arts and how to put it all together into cohesive movements and strategies,” Limbaga shared about her training.

While Limbaga pins her hopes on a triumphant transition to mixed martial arts, her Indonesian opponent seeks the spoil the party by furnishing a statement win over the Filipina striker.

Gaol is an Indonesian national Wushu champion who has trained in various striking disciplines such as kickboxing and Wushu.

At ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE this past January, the 29-year-old native of Jakarta, Indonesia notched her first win under the ONE Championship banner with a first-round stoppage of Malaysia’s Audreylaura “Ice Comet” Boniface.

Gaol seeks to build momentum and begin her ascension up the atomweight division’s ranks at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD.

Limbaga is well aware of the problems that she can present in the stand-up realm of the match against Gaol and fully intends to maximize those strengths.

“I’m expecting a good challenge. She is a strong warrior. I am preparing a solid defense against her, but of course, I am mixing in some offense as well. I am not sure if she will expect that I will add a twist to my game,” she explained.

“For this match, I think the strategy will flow once I am in the cage. I will just do my best to get the win, but also provide an exciting bout for the audience to enjoy,” Limbaga added.

Knowing that she has a future in the sport, Limbaga believes that a win over Gaol will lead her to the big names of ONE Championship’s 52.2-kilogram weight class.

“I want to be the best and to show the best that I can offer. Fighting is my life, and I love competing. A victory means that I’ll be facing tougher opponents in the future. I’m hungry for success,” she ended.

Martin Nguyen privileged to face legend Bibiano Fernandes

Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, who currently holds the ONE Featherweight World Championship and the ONE Lightweight World Championship, is putting all the stops as he attempts to snare a third world title on 24 March.

Nguyen will drop down in weight to challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for his title in the main event of ONE: IRON WILL, which takes place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 28-year-old Vietnamese-Australian dual titleholder is one of the most talked about martial artists in the world today after scoring scintillating knockout victory over the Philippines’ Eduard Folayang in November 2017 to become the first man in ONE Championship history to hold two world titles simultaneously in two different weight divisions.

Nguyen seeks to make history again as he shares the ONE Championship cage with Fernandes, who is widely considered one of the best martial artists in the world regardless of promotion.

For the past several months, Nguyen has been vocal about his desire to test his mettle against Fernandes, who made his ONE Championship debut back in 2012 and has remained unbeaten ever since.

According to Nguyen, facing Fernandes in a scheduled five-round bantamweight title encounter will serve as a standard of measure to determine if he is within the top-caliber rank in the sport.

“He is a legend. How I see it is he is at the top of the mountain. He is at the pinnacle of his career, and is one of the top bantamweight athletes in the world. I only want to test myself against the best,” he stated.

“Although I faced Eduard and won the second world title, I have to face the best now. I see Bibiano at the top of the mountain, and I am the underdog, like in every match. I am the lone wolf, and it is the lone wolf who is always hungrier, so I want to get to the top of the mountain and take him out,” Nguyen added.

Fernandes has not lost a match in seven years and is currently riding high on an astonishing 13-bout winning streak with victories over elite athletes such as Reece McLaren, Kevin Belingon and Dae Hwan Kim.

“He is an all-around martial artist, and he is a tough opponent. Not only do I want this match, but the fans want to see it. He has knockout power, he has slick Jiu-Jitsu, he has great cardio – he has it all. He is as complete of a martial artist you would want,” Nguyen said of Fernandes.

In preparation for the historic bout, Nguyen has methodically followed a strict diet to meet bantamweight division limit of 65.8 kilograms.

“My weight is on track. Everything is on track. My nutritionist has my body going up and down on a calorie deficit diet, and the kilos have been dropping off the past couple of months. I have dropped from 72kg to 68kg,” he shared.

Although he admitted that he could already feel the effect of the weight cut in training, Nguyen asserted that he trusts the entire process of his stringent diet plan.

“I am much more shredded, and my speed and cardio has picked up. You have to lose a little bit of strength, though — you’ve got to give and take. But we are working on my strength at the moment, so I do not lose too much. But as far as my speed and my timing go, it is on point, and when I start peaking, everything will fall into place,” he explained.

Aside from having a nutritionist to oversee his daily meals, Nguyen revealed that he invited a familiar face to his training camp as he tapped the services of McLaren.

McLaren nearly defeated Fernandes for the ONE Bantamweight World Championship in December 2016, ultimately losing by a razor-thin split decision.

“We even had Reece down here for a sparring session, and he has given me some tips on how he thinks Bibiano competes,” he bared.

“This was coach Fari Salievski’s idea. He was like, ‘Bibiano has faced Reece before, and we thought Reece won. So let’s get him down here and get his opinion.’ And it worked out in our favor,” Nguyen further detailed.

With a tall order in front of him at ONE: IRON WILL, Nguyen is confident that he is capable in cracking the code to defeat Fernandes.

“There is no pressure. I am 100 percent confident in this win, and it is not a matter of how I am going to do it, but when I am going to do it. At the start of the match, I will have to weather the storm, but I will take him out from there,” he declared.

Filipino MMA Veterans To Watch Out For

MMA in the Philippines may have only recently risen in popularity, but it has been around for quite some time.

While the Philippines was put on the combat sports map by the accomplishments of Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, and Milan Melindo among others, the local talent isn’t quite limited to boxing. Even the famed Elorde Gym of boxing now has MMA fighters training with them.

The Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) and Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) have regularly featured some of the best talents from the Philippines. Prospects and champions alike have moved to bigger international promotions later in their careers. Meanwhile, Team Lakay of Baguio has produced multiple champions and is considered one of the best MMA stables in the country.

Here’s a look at some of the best Filipino MMA veterans that are still competing in popular promotions:

Eduard “Landslide” Folayang
See Him At: ONE Championship
Fight Record: 18-6-0

The 33-year-old from Baguio has represented the Philippines in international wushu competitions as far back as 2002. In 2007, he made the transition to MMA and made waves in the local scene with the URCC and later in the international scene with Gorilla Warfare and Martial Combat. The Team Lakay product later moved to ONE Championship, where he continued his success and reached the pinnacle by winning the ONE Lightweight World Championship. Last November, he lost the title to the current champion, Martin Nguyen of Australia.

Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly
See Him At: ONE Championship
Fight Record: 10-4-0

The younger brother of another top Filipino MMA fighter in Eric “The Natural” Kelly, Edward is currently 4-1 since 2016, with all his wins coming by way of stoppages and his lone loss going all the way to the cards. Another product of Team Lakay, Kelly’s latest conquest came last January at ONE: Global Superheroes in front of a home crowd in the Mall of Asia Arena. The 33-year-old featherweight may have flown under the radar because of his more popular brother, but he has certainly earned every victory with skill and not by name.

Eric “The Natural” Kelly
See Him At: ONE Championship
Fight Record: 12-5-0

“The Natural” prides himself as not being part of a particular gym or stable and instead develops his own training regimen. The elder Kelly was a teammate of Folayang during their wushu days, but made the transition to MMA a little bit later. The 36-year-old started his MMA career blazing, going undefeated in his first nine fights. His first loss would be against fellow Filipino Honorio “The Rock” Banario for the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Championship, and while he would rebound from that loss with three straight victories (2 of which in ONE), he would suffer four straight defeats, with the latest one just this January in ONE: Global Superheroes.

Honorio “The Rock” Banario
See Him At: ONE Championship
Fight Record: 12-6-0

An undefeated URCC career with six wins all by way of stoppages saw Banario winning the promotion’s Lightweight Championship. The 28-year-old fighter of the famed Team Lakay moved to ONE Championship in 2012 where he would suffer his first career defeat. After getting his first win, he was given a chance to compete for the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Championship. There, he would notch Eric Kelly’s first career defeat. However, he wouldn’t be able to defend the title, as he stumbled with five straight losses. A move back to lightweight seemed to be what he needed as he is now rolling with a four-fight win streak.

Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon
See Him At: ONE Championship
Fight Record: 17-5-0

The 30-year-old was one of the first Team Lakay members, having been part of the group with the team’s founder, Mark Sangiao even before Team Lakay was officially formed. He dominated the competition in URCC, Marital Combat (MC), and Legend FC before suffering back to back losses in his first two fights with ONE Championship. He continued to impress despite alternating some wins and losses, and had the chance to compete for the championship against ONE Bantamweight Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes. While he would go on to lose that fight, he would rebound with a four-fight win streak, including an undefeated three wins in 2017 that earned him the honor of being one of ONE Championship’s top fighters of the year. He’s primed to get a rematch against Fernandes soon.

Mark “Mugen” Streigl
See Him At: URCC
Fight Record: 17-2-0

The 29-year-old Japanese-born Filipino-American fighter has been around, fighting in various promotions throughout the region. After eight months on the sidelines and six years away from the promotion, Streigl returned to URCC in 2017 and scored a triumphant return with a first-round submission of URCC veteran Andrew Benibe. The contender fighting out of Evolve MMA followed up the win with a unanimous decision victory against South Korean Gi Sung Kim last December, setting himself up for a potential clash with URCC Featherweight Champion Do Gyeom Lee in the near future.

Reydon “The Filipino Bolo Punch” Romero
See Him At: URCC
Fight Record: 12-7-0

The “Filipino Bolo Punch” is a former URCC Featherweight champion and is a product of URCC’s grass root MMA league, The University Challenge. The Yaw-Yan Kampilan fighter recently won an the opportunity to compete in a $1 Million South Korea-based ROAD FC tour by beating three other competitors in URCC. While he failed to advance in the round of 16, he showed that he’s capable of competing with the best.