Gianni Subba (9-2) may be on a two-bout winning streak after defeating a pair of former world title challengers, but he still feels like he has a point to prove.
On Friday, 9 March, the Bali-based Malaysian will square off against The Philippines’ Danny “The King” Kingad(8-1) at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. The event takes place at the newly-remodeled Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I am reading a lot in the media that I am challenging Kingad,” the 25-year-old begins. “But it is more like the other way around. The only thing he’s got on me is that he actually competed for the world title.”
Since making his professional debut in 2014, Kingad has tore through the competition. He impressed so much, the then-undefeated Filipino challenged ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the coveted belt in November 2017. The Brazilian kingpin would submit him via rear-naked choke in the first round.
That served as his first, and only, loss. And if Subba has his way, he will add the second blemish to Kingad’s record.
“He is young, strong, and explosive, but I feel like I am definitely stronger,” Subba acknowledges. “I am happy with this match-up, and beating this guy will bring me closer to a world title.”
The Malaysian has some extra incentive in this bout, too.
Back in April 2016, he competed against Kingad’s Team Lakay training partner Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, who captured the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title last month. The bout was competitive throughout all three rounds, but the Bali MMA product wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision.
Ever since that loss, Subba has raised his game. He returned to his winning ways five months later, as he routed a former world title challenger in Brazil’s Yago Bryan. Then, he took nearly a year off to hone his skills and fully recover from injuries, before taking on another former world title challenger in Japan’s Riku “The Outsider” Shibuya in August 2017.
While Shibuya made a number of takedown attempts in that contest, the Malaysian was not about to let his fans down. Subba demonstrated more explosive stand-up throughout the match, uncorking knee strikes, spinning back fists, and lightning-fast combinations.
Although he is content with the unanimous decision victory, he feels like he could have stopped his Japanese adversary.
“I thought I would have been stronger,” he recalls. “I could have finished [the bout] earlier, maybe in the second.”
In March, Subba hopes to stop Kingad, and he has accepted the necessary assistance in accomplishing that task.
He has overhauled his striking and ground skills with the help of new coaches such as Mike Ikilei from New Zealand, who now serves as Bali MMA’s head striking coach. Subba says Ikilei focuses on building upon strengths rather than subtract weaknesses, all while relying heavily on sparring.
“Mike kind of feels like my big brother. He is not trying to change me; he is trying to build me up,” explains the Bali-based Malaysian, who is training four hours a day.
“There is lots of sparring. We have probably already done 60 to 70 rounds. I am fast and long for the division, so striking is my advantage.”
Also, a nutritionist has been drafted to help the martial artist shed weight by cutting carbs after lunch, and boosting protein and vegetable consumption.
It is quite clear Subba is pulling out all of the stops for his upcoming clash with “The King,” and if he can secure a third consecutive victory over a former world title challenger, then perhaps the opportunity to compete for the ONE Flyweight World Championship will be in his reach.
After all, as he puts it: “If you are competing in martial arts, a world title is always the goal.”