Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio The Rockî Banario dropped five straight losses following his title-clinching performance over compatriot Eric Kelly in 2013, but has recently turned a new leaf, impressively winning three straight over top flight opponents.
A renewed wave of confidence he says is what made a world of difference.
Banario (11-6) will return to action against tough and durable Australian foe ìRuthlessî Rob Lisita (14-9) on April 21 in a three-round lightweight bout that is being considered an early candidate for Fight of the Night honors.
His belief in himself, Banario explains, is at an all-time high.
My recent wins have given me my confidence back. Iím happy that Iím now able to show the positive outcome of my hard work. Those losses didnít put me down, they gave me the strength to push forward,î said Banario.
ìIt changed my outlook on life, my outlook on this sport.î
By the time Banario had dropped his fifth straight contest, a 56-second submission loss to Ev Ting, the proud Igorot warrior said he had already contemplated surrender and calling it a day. But it was those closest to him — his family, friends, teammates at the Team Lakay MMA gym, coach Mark Sangiao—who urged him to fight on.
I knew it wasnít over. I had so many fans, true fans, telling me to soldier on and keep fighting and that they still believed in me. Hearing all the words of encouragement, how can you continue to feel down after that? said Banario.
ìCoach Mark [Sangiao] kept a close eye on me and tried to observe my body language. He wanted to see if my confidence would ever come back. I had to remain positive. I knew whatever I needed to find was still inside of me.î
Now, Banario has won his last three bouts, the most impressive of which was a first round armbar victory over top Indian lightweight prospect Rajinder Singh Meena last December, in front of his hometown crowd in Manila.
This April however, Banario knows he has his work cut out for him. Lisita is one of the toughest fighters in ONE Championship, regardless of weight class.
ìHe (Lisita) is the type of fighter who will never give up no matter what. In a way, heís just like me. It doesnít matter if heís tired, beat up or losing a fight. Thereís no quit in the man. Thatís why they call him ëRuthlessí,î said Banario.
But Iím prepared for anything. Whatever style he wants to bring to the cage. Whether itís his usual fast-start, looking for the quick finish, or a more technical, drawn out approach — Iím ready. Iím happy to fight him because I want to be able to test myself against him. Heís a real fighter.
With the success he has enjoyed at this juncture of his career, Banario surprisingly admits that he feels no pressure at all in trying to extend his winning streak. He says that even though Lisita will be the one inside the cage with him, that heís not worried about the Australian.
ìThe only person Iím concerned with is myself,î said Banario.
ìI have to stay calm, and ease the pressure. The previous losses only served to teach me a valuable lesson. Iím not really going to battle with another person, Iím going to battle with myself. Itís my own fears and the negative feelings that I have to conquer. If I can beat myself, only then can I get to the next level,î Banario concluded.