You’d think a fighter making their debut on Asia’s biggest MMA stage would want to relish every moment of their time in the cage.
Not if your name is Gina “Conviction” Iniong, who wishes nothing more than for it to be over as quickly as possible. In her favor, of course.
The Baguio City, Philippines native makes her ONE debut on 21 April at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, taking place at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Staring across from the 4-2 fighter will be fellow Filipina Natalie Gonzales Hills.
“Conviction” is looking to make her debut a quick one; one that ends with Hills hitting the canvas. With two of her professional wins coming by submission and another by TKO, Iniong has the resume to back up her desire to end this bout quickly.
“I will try to finish my fight with a first-round knockout or submission,” she says.
In the days leading up to the bout, Iniong is incredibly candid about pre-fight jitters. A capacity crowd in a huge arena and a new promotion are enough to make any fighter nervous. Still, the Team Lakay atomweight knows she has to come in and take care of business.
“There is a lot of pressure, especially because this is my debut in ONE Championship,” the 27-year-old says. “That is normal in every fight.”
The hometown crowd is also serving as motivation. Coming in with six previous trips to the cage, Iniong is looking at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY as an announcement of her arrival in the big leagues.
“I am so excited to fight, especially because this is my (ONE) debut, and I want it to be momentous. Not just for myself, but because I know lot of fans will watch and support me in the Mall of Asia,” says Iniong.
With only a handful of professional fights, Hills is still a relative unknown in the MMA world. Iniong isn’t worried about that. Hills won’t be a totally foreign fighter, thanks to a previous bout with another Team Lakay standout.
“All I know about Natalie (Gonzales Hills) is that she is a striker,” Iniong explains. “I know she will prepare for this fight, especially because she lost to my teammate April Osenio.”
Iniong also has the added benefit of riding the wave to her ONE debut on a winning streak. Her last professional outing in early 2016 ended with a first-round submission win, courtesy of Achilles lock in the first round. And if all that wasn’t enough, Osenio is right there for “Conviction,” assisting with pre-fight preparation.
“She (Osenio) always tells me that I can do it, because ‘she already lost to me,’” says Iniong.
However, complicating things for Iniong is Hills’ desire to hit the reset button on her career after a four-fight losing skid.
Hills has revamped her training and switched camps, moving to train at Jackson Wink MMA in the United States, one of the leading fight camps in the world. All the videos in the world may not prepare Iniong for the new Hills that will walk into the cage on fight night.
Regardless, Iniong is confident she will be triumphant, stating: “All I want is to win.”