HONORIO Banario takes his act to home soil in the hope of making his countrymen proud as he puts his featherweight title on the line against Koji Oishi in ONE Fighting Championship’s return to the Philippines next month at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fresh from beating compatriot Eric Kelly in Malaysia last February, Banario now tries his hands opposite a Japanese submission specialist in Oishi during the main event of “ONE FC: Rise to Power” on May 31.
Bibiano Fernandes, who headlined the first ONE FC event in Manila last year, also returns to take on another Japanese fighter in Joetsu Okazaki for the interm bantamweight title in the main undercard.
But the spotlight will definitely be on the 23-year-old Benguet-born Banario, whose win against Kelly earned him the distinction as the inaugural ONE FC featherweight champion and the first-ever Filipino world titlist in mixed martial arts.
After taking the backseat to fellow Team Lakay standouts Eduard Folayang, Roy Docyogen, and Kevin Belingon, Banario is now considered the country’s top homegrown MMA talent.
“Ang sikreto lang naman ng pagiging world champion ay disiplina and yun ang nag-i-inspire sa iyo, `yung pamilya mo, `yung dream mo na maging someone else in the world.”
In his first title defense, Banario, who sports an 8-1 win-loss card, is honing his ground game for the match against the 35-year-old Oishi.
“Nung pagkatapos ng (huling) laban ko, dere-deretso lang training ko, improving my ground game kasi alam natin na basta Japanese, grappler lahat. Yun `yung image natin sa fighters nila so nag-seryoso ako sa training,” the 5-foot-9 Banario said.
Victor Cui, CEO of what is considered as Asia’s largest MMA organization being broadcast through over 500 million viewers in 70 countries across the region, expressed confidence in making Banario the top attraction of the main event.
“I’m a hundred and fifty percent confident about Honorio as our world champion. This man has delivered every single time,” Cui said of Banario, who is still lagging in followers compared to the other Team Lakay members.
The other bouts in the card will be announced in the next few weeks.
Tickets for the event, in association with the Universal Reality Combat Championship, will be sold in Casino Filipino branches in the country starting on April 19.