In this day and age, it’s not that common to see kids running around outside without a care in the world. Whether we like to admit it or not, the world has changed. Technology has replaced the pastime of exploring in the great outdoors. The internet has opened our eyes to just how tragic this world we live in can be.

The way that Kevin Belingon grew up is unparalleled to how a lot of people will live their life in the Western world. When you think about living a life with just the basic essentials, which can also be difficult to obtain, it’s hard to think that there would ever be a point where that same life could be on display in front of a potential audience of millions. It’s a humbling memory for Belingon, who is preparing to step into the cage on Dec. 6 at ONE FC 13 against the undefeated David Aranda Santacana. It’s also something that helped shape him into the focused and successful professional athlete that he is today.

“[Growing up in the Philippines] was fun, I guess,” he admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I was always [involved with] sporting since I was young. We did not have much money, but we made do with what we had, and I spent a lot of my time playing in the vast fields.”

Belingon (R) (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

Belingon (R) (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

This modest and humbling way of life also spawned a name that goes hand in hand with the success of combat sports in the Philippines. That name is Manny Pacquiao. For years now, he has been the pride of a country that previously didn’t really have a sporting hero that they could get behind. As you would expect, Pacquiao serves as an inspiration to so many other athletes who call the country home, including Belingon.

“Manny is a hero and he is the benchmark of what we all aspire to be,” Belingon admitted. “[He is] a beacon of hope and glory for the entire country. It’s my favorite place in the world to compete. The atmosphere is electric, the fans are crazy and I get to showcase my skills in front of them. Can’t ask for anything more. Some of them do recognize me and stop me for photos and wish me luck. I have not met any crazy fans yet, and hope I never [do].”

On Nov. 7, disaster struck Belingon’s home country when the worst typhoon in recent history hit the region and caused devastation in the surrounding areas. All around the world, people sent their condolences. In that time of need, the entire country came together and, true to their fighting spirit, they would never concede defeat.

“We were all in our training camp in Baguio, so we were not directly affected by the typhoon,” Belingon explained. “It is a sad tragedy, but through the tough times the world will see the resilience of the Philippines. We will fight through this together.”

Belingon (L) (ONE FC)

Belingon (L) (ONE FC)

Typically, it is a progression from different disciplines of martial arts that sees a fighter taking up a profession in MMA. A mixture of things led Belingon to the sport, and it’s that feeling that he gets when he steps inside the cage that has kept him there.

“I train with Mark Sangiao, head coach of Team Lakay, when I was part of the Wushu national team in Manila. He told us of his plans to transition into MMA coaching and we followed him into MMA,” Belingon said. “It is a difficult thing to explain to those who have never experienced it, but the adrenaline rush is unlike anything else you can do.

“[My life] has changed for the better. I am now competing in front of millions of fans all across Asia. I am able to provide a better life for my family and I get to do something I love. I can’t ask for more.”

Life wasn’t always this way for Belingon. In fact, the idea of kids being able to explore the wide world that is available to them is now something of a distant memory. He has grown up. The years of him playing in the vast fields of a beautiful countryside have now passed. On the inside, however, he’s still just that kid playing in the field, only now his field is a fenced enclosure and when he plays, he plays for keeps.

Kevin would like to thank all Filipinos and Filipinas who support Team Lakay. He adds: “We want to bring joy back to the Philippines, so come down to MOA Arena on Dec. 6.”

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.