|Honorio Banario stalks and gets ready to pound on a fallen Andrew Benibe.|
This appears in philstar.com
Banario-Kelly: A Pinoy superfight
by rick olivares
The world will have to wait and see if Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. decide to stop talking with their mouths and more with their fists.
In the meantime, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia will have to watch two of the baddest men alive try to pound each other into submission or knock the other into oblivion.
Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Eric “The Natural” Kelly take on each other in the main event of the One Fighting Championship: Return of Warriors this coming Saturday, February 2, at the Stadium Putra at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It is the first time that a Filipino fighter, let alone two of them, will headline Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts organization. And Banario and Kelly will be fighting for the One FC Featherweight Championship.
Banario is the current URCC Lightweight Champion and is a member of the legendary Team Lakay where he trains alongside fellow URCC champions like Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and under head coach Mark Sangiao. Banario’s style is Wushu, an ancient Chinese martial art whose practitioners are recognizable by their sideways stance and diverse range of strikes.
Going into the fight with Kelly, Banario sports a 7-1 record yet despite his striking credentials, five of his seven wins were by submission. He has powerful takedowns and his versatility always keeps opponents guessing what his next move would be.
When the opportunity to fight for the One FC title presented itself, Banario didn’t hesitate to sign up for it even if it meant going up against a fellow Filipino. “I think that it's a positive thing. It's essentially a superfight between two champions,” said Banario during a pause in his training in Baguio. “I would have preferred to be representing the Philippines against a fighter from another country but Eric Kelly has relocated to Malaysia so I have to represent Team Lakay and the Philippines and bring the belt back to the country.”
It isn’t simply ethnicity that Banario looks at, after all, he’s been fighting Filipinos also at home in the URCC. “I want to prove that I'm the best in Asia and I can only do that by beating all comers in the division,” he explained. “If it wasn't Eric Kelly, it would be another tough opponent who could be smaller or bigger than me. But at the end of the day, I just need to go in there and show what I can do.”
With recent loses by fellow Team Lakay fighters Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon, Banario hopes that a win in Kuala Lumpur will bring back some luster and confidence to his fight club. “We are a very close team and when one of us loses, the entire team feels the pain that our brother is feeling. We will bounce back from this and come back stronger than ever. It begins when I bring back the featherweight title bout and I'm sure the team would be delighted for me.”
Kelly is undefeated at 7-0, yet Banario isn’t intimidated at all. “I have trained with Eric Kelly before though and I know certain nuances of his fighting game and I would look to exploit that. I am steadily improving to eventually peak at the right time. I'm gradually decreasing my weight but I'm not too focused on that right now. We still have two weeks to train hard and improve my overall game and cardio. I'll start focusing solely on my weight when it's closer to weigh-in day.”
“You can expect the best version of me you have witnessed. I will come prepared for a brawl and at the end of the night, you will see "The Rock" leaving with his hand held high and with the championship belt around his waist.”
One FC: Return of Warriors will be a historic moment for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because for the first time ever, a One FC Featherweight World Champion will be crowned. Since One FC’s sold-out launch in 2011, fans and fighters have been eagerly waiting the crowning of a One FC Featherweight World Champion from the ever-growing talent pool in Asia, and next Saturday, the wait will be over.
One FC fans can also look forward to see the return of Asia’s top fighters, as well as rising stars Vuyisile Colossa, Lowen Tynanes, Shinichi Kojima, Rey Docyogen, Gianni Subba and Adam Kayoom.
More on this match up in an article I wrote about Eric Kelly.