Honorio Banario became the first ever Filipino to win a world title in MMA when he stopped Eric Kelly in the fourth round of their fight at ONE FC: ‘Return of Warriors’ in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month.
The 23 year old from Benguet graduated from the Cordillera Career Development College with a BS in Criminology but instead of chasing down villains in the streets of Baguio he has opted to stand his ground against opponents as a full time MMA fighter.
A crowd of 11,000 people were on hand to witness Banario’s last win which will be shown in the Philippines on Star Sports but the newly crowned ONE FC Featherweight Champion warns any prospective mixed martial artists that fighting professionally is far from an easy career option, “For aspiring fighters you need to have focus in training, have discipline in yourself. You need motivation and discipline otherwise you will never become a successful fighter in the future.”
With a professional MMA record of 8-1 Banario is already at the pinnacle of the sport but the journey to becoming a world champion is a long one which began in 2010 with the URCC. A year after making his debut he became URCC lightweight champion and went on to win six fights out of six for the Filipino promotion.
When Banario finally got the chance to fight for a world title his opponent turned out to be none other than Kelly, a URCC featherweight champion who he had trained alongside and sparred with at the Team Lakay Gym in Baguio.
With a record of 9-0 and a recent win over former UFC champion Jens Pulver the majority of fans expected Kelly to have too much experience for his former training partner and Banario enjoyed upsetting the odds, “It’s an honour for me to represent the Philippines and be the first Filipino to win a world championship belt in MMA. The underdog will always win if he has the heart and mind and focus on the fight.”
Banario is a member of Team Lakay in Baguio which was founded by fellow criminology graduate Mark Sangiao. He trains alongside URCC champions and ONE FC title contenders Kevin Belingon, Rey Docyogen and Eduard Folayang and says he spent two months preparing for his last fight.
He finished the fight with a left hook which appeared to damage his opponent’s eye but rejected suggestions that the decisive strike might have been an illegal poke rather than a legitimate punch, “It was punch with my fist, definitely not a poke. He always punches me with his right arm so I just covered it and punched with my left. When I spar Eric before I always caught him with the striking so I trained very hard to make my striking powerful and solid for this fight.”
Banario’s first title defence will take place on home soil with ONE FC set to return to Manila in the next couple of months. He says he has no preference over who the opponent will be and is ready to fight whoever matchmakers want him to.
After winning a world championship with the biggest MMA organization in Asia even the most dedicated of fighters would normally enjoy a few drinks but Banario has no party planned and plans to mark the occasion by eating his favourite dish with a few close friends,
“I don’t know what I will do to celebrate, maybe when we go home we will have some Pinikpikan!”