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Mixed Martial Arts

Gina Iniong loves being a mother, but misses fighting in ONE

Parenthood truly changes the way a person thinks and approaches one’s life.

Gina “Conviction” Iniong can attest to that. She didn’t only marry the love of her life Richard Araos last year; she also gave birth to a pretty baby daughter back in November.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a mom, and it changed my view about life,” she admitted, smiling ear-to-ear when talking about her baby.

“It changed me a lot especially now that I’m looking after a fragile human being that is solely dependent on me.”

If Iniong thought she was already disciplined then, training her butt off at Team Lakay Gym on her way to a gold medal in kickboxing in the 30th Southeast Asian Games back in 2019, her priorities are all the more magnified now as she juggles her roles as a fighter, a wife, and a mother.

“I have learned to manage my time wisely. It’s the same with my energy, I knew how to approach things better,” the 32-year-old said.

But as much of a treat is it for Iniong to take care of her baby girl, there’s still a part of her that craves for the action, all the more that she’s been out of action for almost a year and a half now.

Iniong hasn’t fought since ONE: Fire & Fury in January 2020, where she outpointed Asha Roka of India to earn a unanimous decision win. That victory made it back-to-back conquests for the Baguio-based fighter that she even jumped to no. 5 of the women’s atomweight rankings in ONE Championship.

Seventeen months, though, is just far too long for an elite fighter to be on the shelf and one can’t blame Iniong for having that hunger to be under the spotlight anew.

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It’s for that reason that she never stopped working, even at home, as she seeks to rekindle her flame and get herself back to her old deadly form, some of whom believed that she was primed for a title shot against ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee of Singapore.

Despite my busy days as a mom, I know I still have to keep myself fit and train here at home since we have a mini gym here. I have to keep on working if I want to be as competitive as I was back then,” she said.

The climb, however, gets tougher now with a bevy of able contenders also driven to stand in Iniong’s way and plead their cases in challenging Lee.

Fellow Filipina and no. 1-ranked women’s atomweight contender Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga leads the pack, alongside no. 2 Meng Bo of China, no. 3 Alyona Rassohyna of Ukraine, no. 4 Stamp Fairtex of Thailand, no. 5 “Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham of Korea, Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata of Japan, and Alyse “Lil’ Savage” Anderson of the United States.

All of those ladies will get a chance to prove their worth in the upcoming ONE Women’s Atomweight Grand Prix, with the winner earning herself a title match against Lee for the coveted belt.

As an observer, Iniong knows that watching those ladies lock horns will be a treat for fight fans everywhere.

But as a competitor, it also serves as an opportunity for Iniong to scout the competition as she bids her time before getting back into the ONE Circle.

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“Seeing the best atomweights in the world compete against one another will be a treat and proof of how competitive the division has gotten,” she said.

“But it also tells me that I always have to prepare for the worst knowing how dangerous each of these women is if ever I face any of them.”

Lucky for Iniong, she’s definitely heading in doubly, or even triply motivated whenever she marks that return as she looks at her child as her main source of inspiration.

“Having my baby definitely makes me more motivated to fight again,” she said. “I’ve always had that drive and fire to fight, and for sure, that drive and fire just got stronger with my daughter around.

“As a parent, all I want is for my child to see my hands raised at the end of my match.”

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