Filipino flyweight star Danny “The King” Kingad was scheduled to go head-to-head against former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat “Kazakh” Akhmetov of Kazakhstan in the semi-finals of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES in Manila on 2 August.
However, Akhmetov got injured and was forced to withdraw from his much-awaited clash with the Filipino phenom.
With less than three weeks to go, the unexpected turn of events gave Kingad with a brand new challenge, as he will now face one of the top names of the 61.2-kilogram weight class — Australian star Reece “Lightning” McLaren.
“When they told me that Kairat was injured, I was shocked at first cause I really wanted to fight him,” said Kingad.
“But I know the time will come in the future wherein we’ll be competing. I hope he’s okay now and I’m wishing him a successful recovery.”
Now that a formidable replacement was found. Despite failing to get his chance to accomplish one of his martial arts wishes to face Akhmetov, Kingad is still getting his opportunity to show his talents in front of his hometown fans against another high-level athlete.
For Kingad, the situation could not have worked out any better.
“I’ve seen him compete many times and I know he’s a terrific athlete. I don’t think I’ll have a hard time adjusting cause he’s pretty similar to Kairat,” said Kingad.
“If there’s an adjustment I have to make, it’s their stance. Kairat is southpaw while McLaren is orthodox.”
Despite losing in his last outing, McLaren made himself the leading candidate to duke it out with Kingad after going all-out against Akhmetov in their quarterfinal bout at ONE: A NEW ERA last March.
With the winner set to face him next after he passed his quarterfinal test against Senzo Ikeda of Japan, Kingad kept a close eye on the McLaren-Akhmetov showdown very carefully and acknowledged McLaren’s talent as a martial artist.
Despite the tough test that awaits, the former ONE Flyweight World Title challenger believes that he has what it takes to neutralize his Australian counterpart.
“Like Kairat, he’s great in wrestling and Jiu Jitsu and he’s strong physically. But I feel like I’m a better striker and my overall game has been improving,” said Kingad.
“Regardless of who I face, I am always determined to show that I am determined to become a World Champion.”