Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario knows what it’s like to suffer a bad run of form, then battle his way back to glory.
He did exactly that when, after losing his ONE Featherweight World Title, he ended up on a five-bout losing streak. Undeterred, he moved up a weight class to compete at lightweight, and has found his feet once again.
He heads into his next outing at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR riding a four-bout win streak, and has his sights set on potentially challenging for a world title in a second weight class.
He’ll face Australian veteran Adrian Pang in Manila, Philippines, in a bout that could push the winner towards a top contender bout. With Pang being one of the most respected figures in the ONE lightweight division, Banario knows he has a tough task ahead of him.
“It is a big challenge for me, personally,” he told ONE Championship.
“If I can beat Pang, it will prove that I am in the top level at lightweight.”
The Filipino star was previously a top-level featherweight, as he launched his career with six straight victories, all by finish. It saw him earn a call-up to ONE Championship in February 2012. Just one year later, he became the organisation’s featherweight world champion when he defeated fellow countryman Edward Kelly.
However, his title reign would be short-lived, as he lost the belt just three months later.
“After winning the title, I could not cope with the changes in my career,” he admitted.
“Things were moving too fast. I lost the title in my first defense against Koji Oishi. It was a shock for me.”
That shock had a major impact on his form as he fell into a five-bout losing streak, with defeats against Narantungalag Jadambaa, Herbert Burns and Ev Ting.
Banario was in danger of seeing his career ebb away prematurely, and the Filipino admitted he’d considered retirement at that point in his career. But he was convinced to continue by the people closest to him.
“My team, my family, and everyone who supported me told me not to give up. Even if I wanted to give up already, they pushed me to continue, and motivated me,” he said.
“I would not be here today if it were not for my incredible support system.”
That prompted Banario’s move up to lightweight, where he has found a new lease of life.
He’s now riding a four-bout win streak, with his latest appearance in the ONE Championship cage resulting in a one-punch finish of Czech Jaroslav Jartim at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY last April.
“I felt stronger, and faster. I love competing at lightweight. [It is] my natural weight,” he said.
“What’s more, I no longer felt the pressure to perform. Everyone was expecting me to lose. A huge weight was off my shoulders.”
Banario returns to action on 20 April on home soil in Manila against Pang, with victory over the tough Aussie sure to see him fly back into title contention once more.
Despite Pang’s age (40), Banario says “The Hunter” is every bit as dangerous as he’s ever been during his ONE Championship career, and that he is ready for one of the toughest tests of his career.
“Even if he is up there in age, he has not appeared to have slowed down. He is still very strong, and he has the experience of a veteran, which is very tough to deal with,” he explained.
“I feel as though I have better cardio than he does, and I am a little taller than he is, so I am going to use that to my advantage. I am young, and I am strong, so I feel very confident that I can outlast him, conditioning-wise. In terms of skill, however, we are very even. We have a similar skill set.
“They say he is very powerful. I want to feel that power, and see for myself. I have handled some very big punchers in my career, but is Adrian Pang is the strongest? We will see.
“I feel as though the momentum is still on my side. I want to continue what I started. I feel strong, and ready. I am at 100 percent now.”