Gina Iniong will enter the cage alone for her bout with Natalie Gonzales Hills at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY on 21 April, but in her mind she knows she has her family by her side.
However, when she started out, her MMA career was a secret she’d hoped to keep from them.
The bout in Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena will be her debut with ONE Championship, after compiling a 4-2 record on other regional shows to earn the call-up. With your name on the bill of an event of this magnitude, there’s no way you’d be able to hide it from those close to you. Thankfully she no longer needs to.
“At first, they did not want me to join because I am a girl,“ revealed the Team Lakay fighter.
You’d think Iniong’s father would have been the one pushing combat sports on her from a young age, having been a committed boxer himself. As it transpired, no matter what your background is, putting your ‘princess’ in positions where she’s likely to get hit will elicit conflicting feelings for a father, whose duty is to protect her.
Her mother didn’t fare much better either.
”[My mother] didn’t want me to fight because she was nervous,“ Iniong revealed, before a change of heart swept over her parents. Though her mother still doesn’t attend and has to send her well wishes from home, her combat savvy dad and brother try to get there to cheer her on wherever possible, after getting their first taste back in 2010.
"When they saw me fight, they changed their minds, and now they support me,” said Iniong.
The physically and mentally demanding rigours of fight preparation are hard enough, without having to worry about whether your choices will be accepted by those closest to you. That means the freedom the Filipina now has surely takes a great weight from her shoulders.
Now she can focus on putting in an impressive performance on her biggest stage to date, as ONE Championship takes over Manila with a fight card stacked with top local fighters.
Alongside Iniong will be her Team Lakay brothers Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Honorio Banario. Thats means her blood family will be cheering her on, whilst her gym family fights by her side.
That kind of support is invaluable. With fighters having to process so much information before and during a bout, being able to look to the stands or your corner for a reassuring nod can be a place of stability, knowing they have every belief in your ability makes you want to prove it to them.
Gina Iniong now has that comfort, and she’ll be fighting to make her family proud as she takes to the ONE Championship cage for the first tine on 21 April.