Bibiano Fernandes Splits with ONE Championship, encourages Fighters to ‘Think twice’ Before going there

Bibiano Fernandes

Bibiano Fernandes has parted ways with ONE Championship.

After more than a decade with the Singapore-based promotion, ‘The Flash’ is moving on, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest bantamweights in ONE history. Listed as an 11-time ONE world champion, Fernandes shared the Circle with some of the biggest names in the division, including Kevin Belingon, Reece McLaren, and Martin Nguyen.

In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Fernandes revealed that his contract with ONE was set to expire in December 2023 and he was notified that the promotion would not offer him a new deal.

“I wasn’t mad at them,” Fernandes said. “Do I think they could have offered me more fights? One-hundred percent. I was out for three years basically and they could have offered me more fights. Was I a bit upset? I was, but that’s life. Many people in the world work hard, give their lives for the company they work for, and in the end [the company] owners say ‘Thank you for your work,’ and that’s it. I was sad, but what can I do? Life goes on.”

After making a name for himself under the DREAM banner, Fernandes signed with ONE Championship in 2012. A year later, he claimed the promotion’s bantamweight world championship and successfully defended it eight times throughout two separate reigns.

He surrendered the strap for the second and final time to John Lineker in March 2022. He lost a second straight bout against Stephen Loman at ONE on Prime Video 4 in November that same year.

Bibiano Fernandes was offered a fight at ONE 165 in January

Fernandes said he was offered a fight with Japanese MMA icon Shinya Aoki at the promotion’s event in Japan next year, but the organization recently announced that Aoki would be taking on ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt instead.

“Only I know what I went through,” Fernandes said. “My run at ONE, I think no one will replicate what I’ve done there. No one will defend the title as many times. I’ve worked for them for 11 years. So many difficulties there, but there’s a point in life I was like, ‘No, wait a minute.’ There are many things I don’t agree with, but still had to go through. I’m a mixed martial arts fighter but they’re doing business. They only think about business, you know? What can I do?”

Unfortunately, Fernandes was unable to go into details regarding ONE Championship’s business practices and negotiation tactics because “there are clauses in my contract saying I can’t speak or they can come after me.” However, he did offer some advice to fighters, saying:

“Many athletes go through difficulties. If you’re a fighter and you’re thinking about fighting for ONE Championship, brother, think twice before you decide to go there. You have to be very careful. Athletes have to think before — you want to fight there? Go, brother, but there’s a moment in life where you have to make decisions about whether or not this is what you really want.”

ONE Championship walks back a desk job offer made in 2017

Bibiano Fernandes inked a new deal with ONE Championship in February 2017, a few months removed from a split decision victory over Reece McLaren to defend his bantamweight title. According to the Brazilian, the contract included a job for him to work behind the scenes once he hung up his four-ounce gloves for good. According to Fernandes, the promotion rescinded that offer.

“There are things I wanted [to say] but I can’t say much because they might come at me,” Fernandes said. “I was supposed to be an ambassador for the promotion, but that didn’t happen. And thinking about it now, it’s for the best. I believe a lot in energy. If the energy isn’t there, I don’t need to force anything. If they don’t see what I’ve done for the organization, there’s nothing I can do.”

“When I received the letter, I wasn’t mad,” he added. “I felt free, you know? I felt like part of my soul came back to me. … I can’t be with a person, I can’t be in a place where they don’t see things the way I see it. You have your peak in the sport, and they’re smart during that peak. They held me back a lot. I could be fighting. There are things you have to be chill and just accept, let my history speak for me.”

Fernandes, 43, is 24-6 in his mixed martial arts career. He had won 10 straight fights inside the Circle before a split decision loss to Kevin Belingon at ONE: Heart of the Lion in 2018. He regained the title four months later in a rematch.