Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League – Philippines to kick off on Feb. 29

US President Trump signs declaration of support for LA Olympics

The largest mobile esports league in Southeast Asia mounts its return in the Philippines following the success of its preceding season that saw Sunspark’s momentous hoisting of the MPL-PH trophy. Their best-of-five grand final bout against ONIC PH will be forever etched in the annals of the tournament’s history as it gave birth to the iconic Arrival play that spoiled the then rookie’s otherwise perfect league debut.

The grand finalists last season were also bestowed with the right to represent the Philippines in the inaugural M1 World Championship 2019, the international Mobile Legends: Bang Bang tournament graced by 14 countries from around the world. The Malaysia-based competition featured a staggering $250,000 USD prize pool, the lion’s share of which was bagged by the eventual champions, Indonesia’s EVOS Legends.

Meanwhile, with the elimination of two championship title holders—Cignal Ultra and ArkAngel—last MPL-PH season, partnered with the rather chaotic roster shuffle that saw familiar faces donning jerseys of teams they used to compete against, the journey towards being legendary this season is expected to be fiercer. Gone, may be, are the go-to favorites but the top-notch Mobile Legends: Bang Bang action surely remains.

The MPL-PH Season 5 kicked off earlier this month catering to all hopefuls nationwide in a two-day online qualifier. The teams who survived the single-elimination meet advanced to the main qualifiers, wherein two slots for the regular season are at stake. After a grueling set round-robin matchups, GOSU and BSB emerged from the fray the top-eight teams of the MPL-PH Season 4—Blacklist International (formerly EVOS PH), STI (formerly Ownage), Bren Esports, Geek Fam, Execration, SGD Omega, ONIC PH, and the defending champions, Sunsparks—in the regular season.

 PARTICIPATING TEAMS

  • Sunsparks
  • ONIC PH
  • SGD Omega
  • Execration
  • Bren Esports
  • Geek Fam
  • Blacklist International (Former EVOS PH)
  • STI (Former Ownage)
  • GOSU – Qualifier Winner
  • BSB – Qualifier Winner 2

The regular season of the MPL-PH Season 5 will run on all weekends of February 29, 2020 to April 5, 2020. The first week of the tournament phase will run on two days, February 29 to March 1, while the succeeding weeks will be from Friday to Sunday. Spectators are more than welcome to watch the regular season matches live at the Illumination Studio located at 2723 Sabio St, Corner Chino Roces Ave, Makati City.

Meanwhile, the top-notch MPL-PH Season 5 regular season action will also be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube starting on February 29 at 6:00 p.m.

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

The Regular Season starts on February 29-April 5, 2020. Week 1: February 29-March 1, Week 2: March 6-8, Week 3: March 13-15, Week 4: March 20-22, Week 5: March 27-29, Week 6: April 3-5 while the Playoffs: will run from May 2-3, 2020

After the six-weekend regular season, the top eight participants will advance to the playoffs to determine which one of them will go home with the lion’s share of the $100,000 prize pool along with the coveted MPL-PH grand championship title. The culmination of the MPL-PH Season 5 will be held at the Le Pavillon Metropolitan Park in Pasay City.

PRIZE POOL BREAKDOWN

This season’s MPL Champion will receive $25,000 while the Grand Final MVP will get $1000. Second Place will take home $13,000, Third Place $6,000, Fourth Place: $4,000, 5th-6th Place: $2,000 each, 7th-8th Place: $1,000 each, Regular Season: $45,000.

ONE Championship’s Singapore event converted to closed door event

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

ONE Championship recently announced that the company has made the decision to convert one of its live events into a closed-door event. ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE, which is scheduled for Friday, 28 February in Singapore is to proceed as planned, but the Singapore Indoor Stadium will be closed off to fans and media.

The decision was made with regard to the situation in Singapore surrounding the Novel Coronavirus (official name COVID-19).

Singapore’s Ministry of Health recently raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from yellow to orange after having confirmed 75 cases of infection.

ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong made the announcement to convert their event in Singapore to a closed-door event initially on his social media accounts. Shortly after, Sityodtong fielded questions from the media on a global conference call.

“In light of the coronavirus situation in Singapore, I have made the decision to convert ONE: King of the Jungle on February 28 into a closed event for broadcast only. The Singapore Indoor Stadium will not be open to the general public, but the event will proceed behind closed doors as scheduled live on all TV and digital platforms across 150+ countries around the world,” Sityodtong wrote on his official Facebook page.

BREAKING NEWS: In light of the coronavirus situation in Singapore, I have made the decision to convert ONE: King of the…

Posted by Chatri Sityodtong on Monday, February 17, 2020

Fans who purchased tickets to the event will be given a full refund through Sportshub Tix, ONE’s official ticketing partner in Singapore. All bouts are to proceed as scheduled, and will still be available live via TV and digital platforms worldwide, as well as through the ONE Super App.

The main event of ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE will see two-sport ONE World Champion Stamp Fairtex of Thailand defend her ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Title against Janet “J.T.” Todd of the United States.

In the co-main event of the evening, reigning ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao of Thailand will take on Lachlan “Rocky” Ogden of Australia for the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title.

Representing Singapore on the global stage is former ONE World Title challenger Amir Khan, who is accompanied by fellow Singaporean stars Tiffany “No Chill” Teo and Radeem Rahman. In addition, Singapore-based athletes Troy Worthen and Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat are set to see action.

“We just felt that this was an incredible moment for us to ignite hope and strength across the continent of Asia and to our fans all over the world during this difficult time,” Sityodtong said during the global conference call.

“I also want to say that it is only by love, compassion, and resilience that Singapore as a country and Asia as a continent can overcome and conquer the Coronavirus.”

Sityodtong also says that while Singapore will proceed with its closed-door event, other events the organization has scheduled in other countries will proceed as planned. ONE Championship remains firm in its promise to deliver at least 50 events this year across all of its properties and will make decisions to alter its events based on various factors as situations change.

“It was not an easy decision for us. In fact, many people were pushing us to cancel the event. But I thought back to why I started ONE Championship in the first place. And our mission since day one has been to unleash real-life superheroes who ignite the world with hope, strength, dreams, and inspiration,” Sityodtong continued.

“It’s a very different mission than all of our other global competitors. Yes we want to put on the greatest fights. Yes, we have the greatest martial artists in the world but there’s a deeper mission for ONE Championship. And in a time of crisis, in a time of fear in the continent of Asia, our heroes are ready to inspire the world.”

UAAP Season 82 volleyball tournament to feature video challenge

In a bid to up the collegiate division’s officiating, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) shall introduce the video challenge system this coming Season 82 of the league’s volleyball tournament.

League president Em Fernandez shared this development to collegiate press corps in a press briefing held at the Mall of Asia Arena earlier today, saying that such introduction will aid referees in on-game decision-making.

“During the SEA Games we also saw the challenges that were implemented, we will also implement the challenge system during this year,” said Fernandez.

Per Noreen Go, who serves as the UAAP Volleyball Control Committee President, UAAP shall use similar technology that of the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games, where the country’s men’s team emerged as silver medalists.

“We will pattern the challenge system after the SEA Games. We’re still finalizing all the details and we will release a memorandum to all schools, all the people involved and the media as well. We want to orient them with the correct rules and the guidelines,” Go said.

With the introduction of the challenge system, this shall be the first of its kind in the country’s collegiate tournaments after the same technology was made available in the country in 2015 for the semi-professional leagues.

RELATED – UAAP volleyball opening weekend to push through amid coronavirus scare

UAAP volleyball opening weekend to push through amid coronavirus scare

Even with three confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the country, the UAAP board has decided to push through with the opening weekend of the Season 82 volleyball tournament on February 15.

This development is relayed no less than by the UAAP Executive Director and Lawyer Rebo Saguisag to reporters during the press conference of the second-semester sports held at the Mall of Asia Arena, today.

“As we speak, all systems go. We are prepared to face this situation but at the moment, as we speak, tuloy tayo,” Saguisag confirmed.

“Rest assured that the UAAP is committed to ensuring the safety of our student-athletes, the coaches, and the officials,” the lawyer assured.

The new UAAP season will follow a new format, wherein the men’s and women’s tournaments will be given alternate airtime as opposed to the previous seasons, wherein the women’s games are almost always in the spotlight.

RELATED –  New UAAP volleyball schedule is good for men’s volleyball

Ateneo de Manila University will defend its women’s crown when it faces archrival, De La Salle University, on Sunday while the three-peat seeking National University will test its mettle post-Bryan Bagunas era as it battles against Adamson University on the same day.

Novak Djokovic wins 8th Australian Open crown at the expense of Dominic Thiem

Novak Djokovic delighted to win the Australian Open for the eighth time

Novak Djokovic made a comeback and achieved his eighth Australian Open crown in a thrilling five-set victory over Dominic Thiem.

With the win, Djokovic clinched his 17th grand slam title and record-extending eighth Australian Open crown with an epic five-set win over Dominic Thiem.

The Serbian required an impressive comeback against Thiem, continuing his dominance in Melbourne courtesy of an enthralling 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory after three hours, 59 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic has claimed the title every time he has reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and he maintained that record while closing in on Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) for most majors won by a man.

The 32-year-old also joined that duo as the only men to win a single major eight times, with Nadal (12 French Open crowns) and Federer (eight at Wimbledon) having also achieved that feat.

Djokovic had been frustrated, particularly after receiving two-time violations in a matter of points in the second set and he also called for the trainer in the third, but he found the right answers against an opponent who had beaten him in four of their previous five meetings.

Thiem fell short of a maiden grand slam title, losing a third major final but first away from Roland Garros, as the Austrian 26-year-old faltered late.

The duo exchanged breaks to start, but it was Thiem enduring the greater struggles on serve.

While he battled hard – saving one set point with his aggression in the 10th game – a double fault handed Djokovic the opener.

 

Needing a response, Thiem found a break to lead 2-1 in the second set, aided by a pair of double faults from a frustrated Djokovic.

Thiem saved a breakpoint in the sixth game, but gave up his advantage in the eighth when he pulled the trigger on a backhand down the line too early with a shot that was becoming a problem rather than a weapon.

But Thiem broke again in the next game, during which Djokovic received two-time violations, served a double fault and committed two sloppy errors before directing words at the chair umpire at the change of ends, none of which distracted his opponent from closing out the set.

Thiem had started to assume control from the baseline, and he took the Djokovic to serve in the opening game of the third after the Serbian pushed a backhand down the line wide before incredibly falling 4-0 behind.

Djokovic called the trainer at 4-1 down but there was no denying Thiem, who served out the set while showing some nerves before his opponent left the court.

 

“Nole! Nole! Nole!” chants rang out early in the fourth set among what was largely a pro-Thiem crowd inside Rod Laver Arena and Djokovic responded, capitalising on a sloppy game from the fifth seed to break for 5-3 before forcing a decider.

Thiem missed two forehands to give up a break to Djokovic in the third game of the fifth set before wasting two break points in the fourth.

He managed a gritty hold to stay in the match in the seventh game but was unable to deny Djokovic, who had no trouble serving it out.

 

 

PH volleyball community mourns the death of Kobe Bryant and daughter

Following the sudden demise of basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant, due to a helicopter crash, some local volleyball players and fans from the Philippines took to Twitter to air their grief.

Bryant was one of the nine passengers who died on the spot when the helicopter the basketball star was riding crashed in a rough terrain located in Calabasas, California. Per reports, Bryant, along with his daughter who also perished, was on their way to an academy where the former Los Angeles Lakers’ star serves as a coach.

Eduard Folayang up against dangerous Pieter Buist, wants to prove something to himself

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

The journey to becoming a World Champion has been a memorable one for Eduard Folayang.

For the veteran leader of Team Lakay, overcoming a difficult 2019 has only made him stronger and hungrier to climb back up the ladder this year.

“The best thing about martial arts is that we have learned that it is the process for us to be a better human being,” Folayang said.

“I always strive to be a better martial artist. Setbacks help make us stronger to overcome more difficult challenges in life.”

The 35-year-old native of Baguio City got back into the win column this past November when he scored a technical decision over Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE.

Folayang’s victory came on the heels of back-to-back submission defeats at the hands of former UFC Lightweight World Champion Eddie Alvarez and fellow former two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki.

“It was very challenging,” Folayang said.

“I lost both via submission, so that was definitely tough (but) that is life. The first one was just a single mistake. That loss to Shinya was because of a single mistake.

“Then, the next one was against Eddie Alvarez. I almost won, but it slipped away.”

While all defeats can be tough to overcome mentally, the setback for Folayang against Alvarez was a little more difficult.

“It hurt the most because I prepared well for that one,” he said. “But life must go on.”

Folayang has worked hard to make himself a better athlete through the battles. After a 2014 loss to Timofey Nastyukhin, he reeled off four consecutive wins, including a 2016 third-round finish of Aoki to win the ONE World Title for the first time.

In 2017, Folayang secured his first title defense with a five-round decision over Ev Ting. He lost the belt to Martin Nguyen later that year but again rebounded, winning three in a row including a decision over Amir Khan for the vacant belt.

Now, with the win over Tsogookhuu on his resume, “Landslide” will look to make it two in a row against Buist.

“I need to win my next fights,” he said. “I need to be in shape. I need to reclaim what I have lost.

“If I become the World Champion for the third time, it will prove something to myself. There will be no doubt about my achievements. That is my aim.”

Coach Shaq delos Santos moves to Cignal

A few weeks after his departure with his former team, Petron, coach Shaq delos Santos has officially been welcomed to the Cignal HD Spikers’ lair.

This development is shared no less than the Cignal’s official Facebook account, Saturday afternoon.

#TeamAwesome officially welcomes Shaq Delos Santos to our #AwesomeFamily! The Cignal HD Spikers are excited to #RiseHigher with you in 2020!

Posted by Cignal HD Spikers on Friday, January 24, 2020

Delos Santos will serve as the assistant of head coach Edgar Barroga in the upcoming Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix.

Prior to joining the HD Spikers, the former national team spiker steered Petron to greater heights when he was named coach of the team since 2016.

Under his tutelage, the Blaze Spikers won four PSL titles – two All-Filipino and two Grand Prix.

Lito Adiwang wants to finish Pongsiri Mitsatit by any means necessary

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

A tremendous opportunity awaits rising superstar Lito Adiwang at ONE: FIRE & FURY.

The Team Lakay standout will put his six-bout win streak on the line against Pongsiri Mitsatit on January 31 from inside the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.

Following his run through Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series, Adiwang finds himself in prime position to begin the year strong after securing a finish at ONE: CENTURY last October.

“I feel confident heading into this match up,” Adiwang said. “I love Pongsiri’s style. He’s an exciting fighter. It just gives me more motivation and confidence knowing I am up against a good challenge.

“The fact that my teammates are also on the card with me, it is even more special.”

A distinct Team Lakay flavor will be present, as Joshua Pacio defends his ONE Strawweight World Championship against Alex Silva. Eduard Folayang, a former two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion, is also scheduled for action along with Danny Kingad. Pacio, Folayang, and Kingad are all teammates of Adiwang.

The bout serves as a special one for many reasons for Adiwang, including because of the location. He has not competed on home soil since 2013.

“This is my first fight in Manila with ONE Championship, so naturally, I am really excited to fight in front of my countrymen,” he said. “Filipino fans are the best in the world, and I cannot wait to bring the heat.”

Adiwang has done just that since joining the promotion in 2018, earning three first-round finishes among his four bouts. Along with besting Pancrase Flyweight World Champion Senzo Ikeda in the opening two minutes of their battle, he also holds stoppage wins over Alberto Correia and Jose Manuel Huerta to go with a decision against Anthony Do.

Known as “Thunder Kid,” Adiwang hopes to make an impression against Mitsatit. Through his preparation for the bout, he believes there is a potential spot to exploit against “The Smiling Assassin” from Tiger Muay Thai.

“Pongsiri is a great striker,” Adiwang said. “He is good in the clinch and he has powerful knees. I know his Muay Thai will be exceptional, but I think I see weakness in his ground game.

“I am heading into this fight full of confidence. I know I am going to win. That is my mindset right now. The only thing left to do is perform to the best of my abilities. Then, I will claim victory.”

Over his 10 career victories, Adiwang has secured six knockout wins and three more submission triumphs. His plans for Mitsatit include earning another stoppage by any means necessary.

“I want to win this fight in an impressive way,” he said. “I want the finish, whichever way it comes – on the feet or on the ground.”

Joshua Pacio wants to continue proving he is worthy of being called a champion

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

For Filipino phenom Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, the distinction of being the ONE Strawweight World Champion means that he is no doubt one of the best in the world in his weight division.

A member of the famed Team Lakay stable out of Baguio City, Philippines, Pacio will look to remain atop the strawweight division’s rankings when he puts his title on the line against a former titleholder in Brazilian submission ace, Alex “Little Rock” Silva, in the main event of ONE: FIRE & FURY this coming January 31st at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.

At just 24 years old, Pacio has risen to the top of ONE’s stacked strawweight division, thanks to notable wins over top tier competition such as former champions Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Yoshitaka Naito, and Yosuke Saruta, as well as contenders Rene Catalan and Pongsiri Mitsatit.

2019 proved to be a very formative year for the young Filipino star, as he lost, reclaimed, and defended the ONE Strawweight World Championship, all within 12 months.

Pacio opened 2019 with a controversial split decision defeat to Saruta in January to relinquish the 56.7-kilogram division’s top prize, but in the immediate rematch just three months later, Pacio went on to reclaim the title in highlight-reel fashion, knocking out Saruta with a head kick in the fourth round.

To close out 2019, Pacio successfully defended his title for the first time with a dominant all-around display leading to a second-round arm triangle submission victory over fellow Filipino Catalan.

“I am a World Champion now,” Pacio said, after finally getting a title defense under his belt. “All I can say is that all the sacrifices and hard work really paid off for us. I feel it now because I have defended the title.”

As dominant as his win over Catalan was, Pacio let it be known that he would be ‘going back to the drawing board’ to continue improving even more, with hopes of a quick return to action to defend his championship once more.

Roughly two months after his successful title defense, Pacio heads back to the ONE Championship stage, and this time he faces the only other former ONE Strawweight World Champion that he has yet to defeat in Silva.

The Brazilian grappler out of Evolve MMA is coming off back-to-back submission wins over Peng Xue Wen and Stefer Rahardian.

Silva, a third-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, is 13 years Pacio’s senior, but the defending champion will be coming in with significantly more experience in the mixed martial arts arena.

In his title defense against the 40-year old Catalan, Pacio was able to show that in mixed martial arts, age is nothing but a number, and “The Passion” is looking to prove that once more against the 37-year old Silva.

“They call me a young phenom for a reason,” Pacio said. “I need to prove that.”

Apart from defending his title for a second time, Pacio is also looking to keep his Mall of Asia Arena record spotless. When competing in the 15,000-seater stadium, Pacio is an impressive 6-0.

Joining Pacio on the card will be Team Lakay teammates Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, Danny “The King” Kingad, Lito “Thunder Kid”  Adiwang, and Gina “Conviction” Iniong, setting up what could be another memorable night for the Philippines’ top mixed martial arts stable.

Folayang, the former two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion, battles The Netherlands’ Pieter Buist in the co-main event, while ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Finalist Kingad returns to action against China’s Xie Wei in a featured bout.

Adiwang, meanwhile, will look to capitalize on his successful debut when he faces Thai veteran Pongsiri Mitsatit, and Iniong, fresh off a successful gold medal run at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, returns to action to face India’s Asha Roka.

Eduard Folayang begins another run at the Lightweight World Title in Manila this January

Filipino martial arts veteran and two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang is confident he has enough left in the tank to bag another shot at the title this year.

The Team Lakay stalwart succumbed to the lightweight belt in Tokyo in early 2019, falling to rival Shinya Aoki via first-round submission at ONE: A NEW ERA. It was a painful setback but did little to deter Folayang’s fighting spirit.

This year, Folayang vows to return as a better competitor, and show fans he has what it takes to be champion again.

“2019 has been an absolute roller coaster ride for me,” Folayang said.

“I started the year off as champion but fell short of victory against Shinya [Aoki] in Tokyo. That’s a loss that I learned a lot from and it was a very tough experience to deal with. I can honestly say however that I am a much better martial artist because of it.”

Apart from taking on the legendary Aoki, Folayang also got the opportunity to challenge multiple-time lightweight champion Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, a more than a recognizable name in the mixed martial arts ecosphere.

Despite dominating Alvarez in the early going, however, Alvarez turned the corner and scored a come-from-behind victory on the strength of his wrestling and submission skills. The American secured a rear-naked choke midway through the first round, earning a spot in the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix Championship Final, which he eventually relinquished due to injury.

Although it was another painful setback, Folayang realizes the value of facing an American icon.

“After facing Eddie Alvarez of course, it was another learning experience for me,” Folayang said.

“Being able to face one of the best fighters in the world, who is a former UFC and Bellator World Champion, it was a huge honor. I feel like I was winning that fight, and then one mistake and I’m on the losing end. I won’t make that same mistake again next time.”

For Folayang to be able to return to title contention, he has to be perfect to start the year. He believes he has to turn in inspiring performances that will catapult him back up the rankings, starting with his first bout of 2020.

Folayang is scheduled to face Pakistan’s Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba at ONE: FIRE & FURY, set for the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Friday, 31 January. In this bout, Folayang vows to showcase his overall improvements, and that he learned valuable lessons in the past year.

“As a martial artist, I’m always learning and growing,” Folayang concluded.

“I still feel like I’m at the top of my division, and I want to get back in contention in 2020. The lightweight division is one of the toughest in ONE Championship, and I want to reclaim the title again for my Filipino fans. I’m hungry as ever for victory. I will be back on top. It’s all about that mindset. With the help of God, I’ll be champion again.”

Ella de Jesus reunites with Valdez, Morado as she signs with Creamline

After playing for three seasons with BanKo Perlas Spikers, former Ateneo spiker Ella de Jesus will reunite with collegiate teammates Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado as she signed for the Creamline Cool Smashers for this year’s Premier Volleyball League.

This development is confirmed no less than by Lizanne Co, the team’s manager, on her Twitter account.

With the addition of De Jesus in the Cool Smashers’  lair, she is expected to add more firepower to the already stacked team composed mainly by UAAP standouts. De Jesus previously played as a libero for the Perlas Spikers, but was also a decent attacker during her heydays at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Known as the “Ella-vator” for her high-leaping ability, De Jesus was part of the Ateneo team that dethroned thrice-to-beat De La Salle University Lady Spikers back in UAAP Season 76. In Season 77, De Jesus was instrumental in Ateneo’s 16-game winning streak for a back-to-back crown.

Joshua Pacio says the best version of himself is yet to come

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

Reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines says if you’ve been impressed with his performances so far, you haven’t seen anything yet. The 23-year-old phenom vows to showcase a much better version of himself this year.

Pacio attributes his improvement to the lessons he learned in 2019. After succumbing to Japanese star Yosuke Saruta early in the year, the Team Lakay hotshot was hungry and motivated to reclaim his title. He did just that in a rematch later in the year, which earned him back not just the strawweight belt, but also a highlight-reel head kick knockout.

Pacio capped off the year with a successful title defense against compatriot Rene Catalan, whom he submitted via second-round triangle choke.

“I learned a lot this year, and I’m really happy with my progress,” Pacio said.

“Obviously, I lost the bout early in January and that was pretty painful. But I’m also grateful for that experience because it showed me areas of weakness that I needed to improve on. I worked hard to get where I’m at and we saw those improvements in April and November.”

Being at the top of the division, Pacio knows everyone is gunning to take his spot. So the young champion is always ready to go and formidable, willing to face anyone who steps up to the plate.

“As the reigning champion, there’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders,” Pacio said.

“That’s why I’m always in the gym working on my craft. I enjoy the process of training, the process of getting better, and even doing media. I love talking to people and engaging with fans. I’m having so much fun and I can say martial arts is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Pacio is scheduled to defend his title in the main event of ONE: FIRE & FURY, set for the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Friday, 31 January. Standing across from him will be Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and former strawweight kingpin Alex “Little Rock” Silva.

Pacio understands that Silva could be his toughest challenge yet, given his veteran opponent’s impressive grappling pedigree. But the young Team Lakay warrior remains confident of victory and will head into the bout well-prepared.

“At this level, there’s not a lot of separation between fighters,” Pacio said.

“Everyone is talented and has their own strengths and weaknesses. The only thing is that, as a champion, every opponent I face is a hungry lion wanting to take my throne. They want the belt and every challenge is tough. That’s why I have to remain focused and make sure these guys don’t beat me.

“I think at 23, I’m just going to keep getting better every day. I’m always in training and working on perfecting my skills. 2020 is going to be a huge year for me, starting with my first title defense of the year against Alex Silva. He’s a tremendous grappler and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, so I have to be careful and make sure my ground game is on point.”

(file photo)

Danny Kingad promises ‘Something New’ in coming year

ONE Championship star Sage Northcutt looks in tremendous shape in latest shadow boxing video – who should he face in his comeback fight?

For three rounds, Danny Kingad tested himself against the greatest flyweight in history, Demetrious Johnson.

And while Kingad was unable to secure the victory over “Mighty Mouse” when they met in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Finals, it did give him a sense of placement in the rankings.

Kingad will try to rebound into the win column at ONE: FIRE & FURY when he faces Xie Wei on 31 January from the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.

The loss at ONE: CENTURY for “The King” snapped a six-bout win streak and also forced him to do a little self-reflection before deciding to return to action in early 2020.

“Everyone will see something new from me in the coming year,” Kingad said.

“With everything that I learned about myself in 2019, the next year will be a chance for me to show how much I have grown. My personal goal is to win every match in order to become worthy of a World Title challenge soon.”

Kingad, who earned victories over Reece McLaren, Senzo Ikeda, and Tatsumitsu Wada over the past 12 months, is now 13-2 in his career. That includes nines triumphs in 11 appearances for ONE Championship.

Both of Kingad’s victories over McLaren and Wada came inside the Mall of Asia Arena, giving him a feeling of comfort for his next bout.

And while each and every chance to compete helped create the person that prepares to stand against Xie, the opportunity to face someone like Johnson helped him grow like no other.

“I learned a lot,” Kingad said.

“I was against top-caliber athletes who were able to make me realize some of my weaknesses, which I continuously work on to improve. The experience (of facing Johnson) was very exciting, and I was really happy because I was given a chance to be a part of (the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship).”

Despite coming away without the victory, Kingad said: “I am very much satisfied with my performance, and I am really happy to have competed against such talented athletes.”

“Not everyone can get a chance to compete against an in-his-prime DJ, but I was able to go toe-to-toe with him and push him for three rounds.”

Kingad will be joined on ONE: FIRE & FURY by his Team Lakay teammates, ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio and Eduard Folayang. Pacio defends his ONE Strawweight World Title against Alex Silva in the main event, with Folayang battling Ahmed Mujtaba in a lightweight contest.