MMA: Team Lakay’s Banario eyes world title run in 2021

Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario. Handout photo.

MANILA, Philippines — Veteran MMA fighter Honorio “The Rock” Banario wants to build on a promising campaign in 2020 and vault himself into world title contention this year.

Banario, the inaugural ONE featherweight world champion, was one of the few bright spots for Team Lakay last year. The iconic stable saw former champions Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon suffer setbacks, while rising star Lito Adiwang also tasted defeat for the first time in ONE Championship in late 2020.

But Banario secured a split decision win over fellow top featherweight Shannon Wiratchai of Thailand in February, ending a three-fight slump. 

“I want to fight more in 2021,” said the 31-year-old Banario. “(I want to) reestablish myself as a top fighter in my division.” 

“Hopefully, I can claw my way back up to a title shot by the end of the year,” he added.

Currently, Thanh Le holds the ONE featherweight world title. Banario was the inaugural winner, all the way back in February 2013 when he defeated Eric Kelly. But he lost the belt just three months later to Japan’s Koji Oishi.

Banario, who lost a rematch to Oishi in December 2013, is determined to rise up the rankings again.

“I really want to become a champion and hold that belt again. To do that, I have to stay strong in challenging times and constantly move forward to pursue my dreams,” he said.

“That goes for the rest of the team also,” Banario stressed. “We will prove once again that here at Team Lakay, champions are not born, they are made.”

Banario said Team Lakay is highly motivated to regain their winning ways in 2021, after painful losses to end the past year. 

Aside from the veteran, the only other Team Lakay star to shine in 2020 was strawweight champion Joshua Pacio who successfully defended his belt in January.

“This year, the team is very motivated to bounce back as we adapt ourselves and our training methodologies to the ‘new normal,'” said Banario. 

“We are all reinvigorated and fired up to return to our dominance in the Circle,” he vowed.

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