MMA

MMA: Gina Iniong eager to get back to atomweight title picture

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Team Lakay’s Gina Iniong. Handout

MANILA, Philippines — Filipina mixed martial arts (MMA) star Gina Iniong has had an eventful 2020, even though she competed in the ONE Circle just once this year.

Iniong opened her year with a unanimous decision win over India’s Asha Roka in January, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced virtually all sports to grind to a halt just a couple of months after that.

“Conviction” spent the next few months dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic, but also got some good news as she announced that she was pregnant with her first child with husband Richard Araos.

Iniong welcomed her daughter, Gianna Rose, in November. 

“This year, everything just fell into place for me, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons,” said Iniong, who had been looking forward to a big 2020 after winning kickboxing gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

“The biggest lesson I learned this year is that time is so precious. You can’t put a price on it. It’s the only thing you can never make more of. It’s life’s most expensive commodity,” she said.

While Iniong’s focus over the next few months is taking care of her child and spending time with her family, she said she will also try her best to stay fit and healthy as she wants to continue her MMA career. 

She admits that she considered retiring at one point during her pregnancy, but was convinced by Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao to make a decision after giving birth.

Iniong ultimately decided to continue on with her career, stating that she is more motivated now than ever.

“Everything is the same. I want to be the best Gina Iniong in the Circle possible. Nothing has changed for me,” she said. “I can’t wait to get back in the Circle. I’ve missed it.”

“Once I’m cleared to go back to training, and when my body feels right, you can expect to see me alongside your favorite Team Lakay superheroes again,” she guaranteed.

Iniong was ranked No. 5 in the women’s atomweight division before she took a break from competition, but due to her inactivity she relinquished her spot to Thailand’s Stamp Fairtext.

The veteran Filipina fighter is not worried about falling out of the rankings and is determined to work her way back up.

“My division is really exciting right now. There are so many great talents and I’m so excited for a lot of potential matchups. Any opponent that ONE Championship will give me, I’ll be ready,” she said.

“I’m hungry and motivated to re-establish myself at the top. Fans can expect a stronger, wiser, and more dangerous Gina Iniong next year.”

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