Danny “The King” Kingad, 23, of the Philippines earned a ticket to the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix after beating Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada, 30, of Japan on January 25, 2019 at “ONE: Hero’s Ascent” at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Filipino fighter named Reece “Lightning” McLaren, 27, of Australia as the opponent he is likely to face next.
“I just feel that my next opponent could be Reece McLaren,” Kingad told ABS-CBN News after “ONE: Hero’s Ascent.” “Each and every martial artist in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix is world-class. I will have to prepare really hard for them.”
The most recent bout of McLaren was at “ONE: Battle for the Heavens” on July 7, 2018 at the Guangzhou Tianhe Gymnasium in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China where he defeated Wada via split decision. The Australian fighter, who is also of Filipino descent, has been competing professionally since 2010 and it was the first time he won via split decision.
After “ONE: Battle for the Heavens,” I asked McLaren if he thought he should have won against Wada via unanimous decision. He said, “I honestly don’t know how judges score fights.”
For McLaren, the judges’ scorecards are opinions that he cares little for and he aims to “take that out of their hands.” All of his ONE Championship wins were via submission except the unanimous decision win over Muin “Tajik” Gafurov, 22, of Tajikistan at “ONE: Global Rivals” at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on April 15, 2016 and the split decision win over Wada.
“Wada is so tough and very, very good,” McLaren told me. “I knew he was my toughest bout scheduled at flyweight and it was.”
ONE Championship has yet to announce the respective opponents of McLaren and Kingad in ONE Flyweight Grand Prix. But months before the tournament was announced, the Australian-Filipino fighter was considered the next challenger of Kingad’s Team Lakay teammate Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, 29, who was then the reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion.
Eustaquio became the ONE Flyweight World Champion by dethroning Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes, 29, of Brazil during their rematch at “ONE: Pinnacle of Power” at the Studio City Event Center in Macau, China on June 23, 2018 via split decision. I asked McLaren for his comment on the result at the time.
“The winner won,” McLaren told me. “Geje fought a great fight and I believe he won fair and square.”
Since fight fans were expecting McLaren to be Eustaquio’s next challenger at the time, I asked the Australian-Filipino fighter if the fact that the then reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion is from the famed Team Lakay intimidated him at all. He said, “No, not at all.”
“Life is about challenging yourself,” McLaren pointed out. “Competing is about the platform of proof. If you want to prove or be the best, you must compete against the best.”
But it appears that the Team Lakay fighter McLaren is likely to face soon is Kingad, not Eustaquio. In a trilogy fight with Eustaquio at “ONE: Hero’s Ascent,” Moraes regained the ONE Flyweight World Championship title via unanimous decision.
The ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix will start on March 31, 2019 at “ONE: A New Era” at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. The first quarter-final bout of the tournament is between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, 32, of the United States and Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu, 24, of Japan.
McLaren was voted as the Favorite ONE Flyweight Fighter in The Favorite ONE Awards 2018. Here are some fun facts about the Australian-Filipino MMA fighter: