February 3, 2023

ONE Championship flyweight contender Danny Kingad’s highly-anticipated match against former world champion Kairat Akhmetov in ONE: Collision in Singapore on Dec. 4 has been called off after a cornerman from Team Lakay tested positive for Covid-19.

ONE did not disclose the name of the cornerman, who was reportedly asymptomatic while Kingad and other close contacts were instructed to undergo home quarantine.

Kingad’s morale has been boosted recently when his teammate, former ONE flyweight world champion Geje Eustaquio, said in an interview that he is willing to step aside to pave the way for the former to chase his dream of becoming a champion.

The 31-year-old Eustaquio has further elevated his ranking in the deep flyweight division after his masterful performance against Song Min Jong of South Korea recently, making him a potential threat to Kingad’s chase of another world title run.

But the two-time world champion was quick to dismiss speculations of a possible match-up with the younger Kingad in the future should he become a title contender anew.

“I want the young man (Kingad) branded as a champion,” Eustaquio said, adding that he will feel like a three-time world champion if his “brother” from Team Lakay becomes the king of the flyweight division.

Kingad is currently ranked number two in the flyweight division with former Ultimate Fighting Championship and Grand Prix flyweight winner Demetrius Johnson as the number one contender for the title currently held by Adriano Moraes.

If he retains his spot, Kingad will be the rightful challenger against the winner between Moraes and Johnson.

But Kingad has to prepare hard when ONE sets a new fight schedule against Akhmetov, who is also determined to get a spot to fight either Johnson or Moraes in the future.

Against Akhmetov, Kingad faces a three-time national Greco-Roman champion in Kazakhstan, and a regional taekwondo champion. 

The biggest misconception about Akhmetov is that he doesn’t have the striking skills to match his wrestling, but Kingad believes otherwise.

“I think his biggest strength is that he’s very well-rounded. He has good wrestling skills, but he’s not just a wrestler. He can strike too, and I shouldn’t underestimate him,” Kingad said.

“I think I’m better than him all-around. I’m very proud of my skills, and I think I have the best team behind me,” he added. – Harley F. Palangchao