Danny "The King" Kingad felt like he was already on the cusp of greatness.
It was October 2019 in Tokyo when the pride of Team Lakay entered the biggest match of his career, as he faced one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters to ever step in ONE Circle, with a chance to be one step away from immortality.
Kingad went toe-to-toe with Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson for three grueling rounds, laying everything on the line in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Final at ONE: CENTURY I
Motivated to prove that he belongs among the elite in the weight class, he took the challenge head on and didn't give an inch.
He came out of the gates hot, showing his undeniable aggression and took the fight to the decorated American from the opening bell. Kingad even connected with a solid left hook in the second round that rocked Johnson, but eventually, the American's veteran savvy proved too much as Johnson took control and began to work on Kingad in the ground.
Still, The King refused to back down, scoring on a takedown and even tried to lock in a submission as he tried to beat Mighty Mouse in his own game.
In the end, though, the judges' scorecards did not favor the Filipino as Kingad ended up as bridesmaid to Johnson for the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship, losing only via unanimous decision.
Deflating as the loss was, it showed the immense potential that Kingad had and proved that he can hang with the best the promotion has to offer.
Now, nearly two years since that defeat, he wants another go-round against Johnson.
"Of course, he is the greatest of all time, the GOAT, and I would really like to have a rematch with him," the 25-year-old said.
Kingad has constantly heeded the words of Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao that in every loss, learnings must be absorbed as their camp has wasted no time studying the film and focusing on what he did wrong in that fight.
"After that fight, we watched it over and over again to see what went wrong for me," he stated. "We really went back to square one for me to be able to sharpen those skills that Iacked against DJ."
From that loss, Kingad bounced back with an emphatic unanimous decision win over Xie Wei of China at ONE: FIRE & FURY back in January 2020 before the global COVID-19 pandemic put everything on a screeching halt.
Johnson, meanwhile, did get his long-awaited World Title shot against reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano "Mikinho" Moraes of Brazil at ONE on TNT I back in April.
However, the multi-time world champion failed to win the belt as he found himself on the wrong end of a knee strike and suffered a second-round knockout defeat, the first time "Mighty Mouse" has ever been stopped in his illustrious career.
Diverging as their paths may be, the two remain as the top contenders in the ONE Athlete Rankings in the flyweight division. Johnson remains solid at no. 1, while Kingad isn't that far behind at no. 2.
It has been a while since Kingad last fought, and despite the pandemic, he believes that he has become a better version of himself, improving in all fronts as he's raring to get back to action.
And that includes the potential rounds four, five and six, against Johnson.
"I will definitely be back stronger. It's been close to two years since we last two fought and a lot has already happened in our own careers," he said. "I'm more than ready to take on DJ again."