A proud Igorot warrior, 22-year-old Danny Kingad is one of the most tenacious, exciting talents in ONE Championship today, but his path to stardom under the bright lights of ONE Championship was far from easy.
The Filipino had a tough start, growing up in Baguio City as the youngest of five children, in a family where his parents struggled to make ends meet. He had the love of his parents, but life was difficult.
“I grew up with a poor family, and it certainly was not easy growing up,” he explained.
“There was not always enough food when your family could not find work.”
Without the finances needed to purchase toys, bicycles, and the like, Kingad’s youth was spent using his environment around him for his recreation, with much of his time spent at the beach, swimming, running on the sand, and spending time with friends. For a youngster from a family without much money, t was idyllic.
Things took a turn for the worse when tragedy hit his family when he was just 8 years old. His father passed away, and Kingad’s life changed forever.
“Losing my father was very difficult, because I cannot see him anymore,” Kingad explained.
“I get some of my motivation from the stories my mom tells me about my dad. My dad and I were very close when he was alive. I am very grateful that I still have my mom, and we are very close.”
Kingad’s mother went to live with his sister, while Danny moved in with his older brother and his family. It has proved to be an arrangement that hugely benefitted the Filipino. His brother helped push and encourage him in his studies and in training, as well as helped him financially to ensure he could make ends meet.
After a tumultuous childhood, things started to achieve a level of normality during his teenage years.
In his early days at Pinsao National High School, Kingad threw himself into the party scene, smoking and drinking to excess. But around the same time, he was introduced to the Filipino martial art of wushu by his cousin. Kingad gave it a try, and found that it started to affect his life in positive ways.
“My cousin wanted me to go to varsity, so I started to train incessantly,” Kingad states.
“He is the reason I spend so much time training. I did a lot of running as well, to go along with my training in wushu.
“I really like how the art of wushu pushes you to discipline yourself. I desired to learn more about the techniques of wushu and to learn more about myself, as well. I needed discipline, because before wushu, my friends encouraged me to go to parties and drink alcohol.”
Kingad’s new-found passion for wushu saw him become a genuine student of the art, and eventually saw him enrol at the University of Cordilleras, where he became an integral part of the university team. Under famed coach Mark Sangiao, he won the 2015 Regional Wushu Championship.
Sangiao is better known for being the figurehead and driving force behind the Philippines’ most renowned martial arts team, Team Lakay, home to a host of ONE Championship stars, including former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.
Kingad’s desire to expand his skillset saw him start training in grappling, and after seeing his peers on the mat achieving success in the cage, he decided to take up the challenge himself.
“I used wushu to help me with my discipline and I am now training in other martial arts, because it is a big motivation for me,” said Kingad.
“I saw some of the seniors at school competing, and they are champions now. I wanted to become a champion too.”
The ONE Flyweight World Championship remains Kingad’s main target as he continues his rise through the ONE Championship ranks. Since his debut three years ago, he looked every bit a potential title contender, having compiled a record of 8-1.
In November 2017, he got his wish when he challenged Brazilian world champion Adriano Moraes, but he lost out to the more experienced warrior.
Still, at the age of 22, Kingad’s best competitive years remain ahead of him, and his martial arts development will only benefit from his experience of competing for a world title.
He also has the experience of living through difficult early years and gaining rare wisdom for a man of his relatively young age.
Kingad’s next test comes on 9 March, when he takes on Bulgaria’s Sotir Kichukov on short notice at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in Kuala Lumpur.
He hopes his successes on the sporting field can help not only provide for his family, but also serve as inspiration to young kids who may be experiencing similar difficulties to the ones he faced as a young boy.
“The biggest hope I have for the future is to help my family,” said an excited Kingad.
“I want to get closer to God and help my friends and family who are suffering. I also want to help my brother as a way to pay him back for the support he has given me.”