Team Lakay's Eustaquio: Desire to become champion again still in my heart

It wasn't exactly the result they were aiming for, but Geje Eustaquio and Team Lakay believe the former ONE flyweight champion's latest win is a step in the right direction.

The 31-year-old was dominant against Song Min Jong in the undercard of ONE: Inside the Matrix III on Nov. 13 in Singapore, relying heavily on his striking to wear down and frustrate the Korean fighter throughout the bout.

But Eustaquio, who improved to 14-8 after his second straight win, admitted he wanted to finish the fight a little earlier instead of having to go through the scorecards.

"I tested the waters, but he was tough. My wrist actually hurt from striking him. I had the chance to take him to the ground, but he wasn't a pushover," Eustaquio told reporters Sunday in Filipino. "I'm satisfied with the performance, but my aim was to give you and the fans an impressive finish."

Regardless, there is belief within the Team Lakay camp that Eustaquio's win could get him some recognition -- or even a title shot -- in a stacked flyweight division.

Eustaquio is notably not included in the promotion's top five division rankings despite being one of only three fighters who have held the belt, with the other two being current champion Adriano Moraes and another former titlist in Kairat Akhmetov.

"In my own opinion, I really belong in the world rankings," he said. "It is just surprising that they did not include me in the top 5, but I don't take that thing negatively. I took it positively to focus more on my skills, to focus more on my career.

"Maybe they didn't put me there so I can have something to prove so in the future, they could put me back in the top five or -- who knows -- immediately make me face the champion," he added.

There are no big plans at the moment for Eustaquio, who said he is willing to take on anybody for his next fight in hopes of snatching back the belt that once belonged to him.

"To choose an opponent, I know that's not my job. I trust ONE Championship with that," he said. "I've been a world champion and I want to tell everyone that the desire, the fire to become a world champion again is still in my heart."

Eustaquio added: "My drive when I started dreaming of becoming a world champion is the same as it is today. In God's perfect time, I believe the belt will rest again on my waist."

Meanwhile, the priorities are a little different for two other Lakay fighters who sustained tough losses in the same event.

For strawweight contender Lito Adiwang, a rematch would settle some unfinished business with Hiroba Minowa after the Japanese fighter eked out a narrow split decision win last Friday.

"I'm asking for a rematch so we can silence our viewers and fans," he said in Filipino. "I know on his side his victory feels hollow because a lot of our supporters think I should have gotten that win because he tapped. So I think the best way to close this is with one more round. Let's have a rematch."

Not a few viewers pointed out the fact that Minowa tapped at one point in the first round, when Adiwang was able to lock a kimura on his opponent's left arm. The fight, however, wasn't stopped by the referee, and Minowa proceeded to maintain his distance from Adiwang for most of the fight to secure the win.

Adiwang felt he was able to successfully trap Minowa the first time even if he was only able to see the tap after reviewing the tape.

"I thought I trapped him the first time. If we check his position, I trapped his hand on my crotch. So I gave him an opening so he can use his right hand to tap," he explained. "I only saw it on video because things happened fast during the fight. But I know deep inside I was able to lock it the first time."

The latest loss snapped a seven-fight win streak for Adiwang, who slid to 11-3. This was also the 27-year-old fighter's first loss in ONE, and his first since 2014.

But Adiwang, ranked at no. 5 in the strawweight rankings, thinks this is just a minor setback that he could look back on with ease when he gets to the top.

"This was a wake-up call," he said of the loss. "But I'm still looking at the bigger picture. I'm taking this as a positive thing, a learning experience to be better. It's good that the loss happened now so I can check myself now rather than later when I'm on top."

If ONE grants him a rematch with Minowa, Adiwang is bent on ending it early.

"I hope we get that rematch. I know myself, I know it was just a bad day in the office so I really want to get that rematch. But it's up to ONE Championship. I will respect their decision, whatever they say," he said.

"Next time, I think it's best that I don't involve the judges or the referee, so I'll do my best to finish it quickly."

Former bantamweight world champion Kevin Belingon, on the other hand, simply hopes to just work his way back up in the division after a brutal technical knockout (TKO) loss to John 'Hands of Stone' Lineker in the main event.

Belingon was tagged early on by an aggressive Lineker and later caught a vicious uppercut that sent him kneeling on the canvas in the second round. Lineker threw a couple more punches against a downed Belingon before the referee stepped in to halt the fight.

"I sustained two solid blows to the head in the first round, and in the second round his uppercut hit me. I was supposed to exit, but I blacked out and fell," he shared in Filipino. "I'm very disappointed because I wasn't able to execute the game plan that I had. But I believe in the future, we'll be facing each other again and that loss will serve as a learning experience."

Belingon fell to 20-8 after a third straight loss. This was also the first time he was ever knocked out in his MMA career.

"Honestly my performance was really different compared to my previous fights. Parang nawala 'yung angas ba," rued Belingon. "I hope in the future our paths cross again in a rematch ... He's the strongest I've ever faced because he's the only person who has ever TKOed me."

The 33-year-old fighter was the no. 1 contender for the belt currently held by Bibiano Fernandes, whom he has faced four times already, but he will probably have to settle for other fights in the meantime to boost his stock in the division.

"Whoever ONE gives me, I'll fight him. I have to start over since they won't give me Bibiano Fernandes," he said. "I'll fight anyone in the bantamweight division. I'll work my way back to the top again and I hope in the future I get the chance to face the champion for a shot at the belt again."

While he awaits word from ONE regarding a next matchup, Belingon said he'll get back to the gym and "fix what needs to be fixed. I'll recharge and restart here at the gym, start at the bottom."

Head coach Mark Sangiao said he is due for a tough conversation with Adiwang and Belingon in order to address what needs to be addressed moving forward.

"Of course I'm sad because we weren't able to get the result that we wanted, though Geje still won. We had different expectations for our athletes. It hurts on the part of the athletes, but it also hurts just as much for me as a coach," he said in Filpino.

"I'll talk to them, man-to-man, to fix the problem. If there are any problems, we'll have to fix them so they won't repeat the same mistakes," he continued. "They'll air out everything that they want to air out so when we get home and start training, everyone's focused again."