For the last year, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes has been locked in a back-and-forth duel with Team Lakay’s Kevin Belingon. It’s a duel that traces its origins back to the pair’s initial meeting in 2016 at ONE: Dynasty of Champions when Fernandes submitted Belingon in the opening round.
Following his loss to Fernandes, Belingon went back to the drawing board. He worked on his game, and, after an eight-month layoff, returned with a vengeance.
After notching up six-straight victories, Belingon was given a second opportunity at Fernandes, who at the time was the longest-reigning ONE champion. The two men first rematched last November in Singapore at ONE: Heart Of The Lion. After a closely-fought five-round contest, Fernandes found himself on the wrong side of the judge’s scorecards. The split decision loss frustrated the Brazilian, who wanted and soon received, a rematch.
The pair next faced off in March at ONE: A New Era in Tokyo, Japan, where Belingon found himself disqualified in the third round for the use of illegal elbows. While Fernandes was awarded the belt, the manner of victory made the win somewhat hollow.
Now the 39-year-old MMA veteran has the chance to finally solidify his status as ONE’s top bantamweight when he meets his Filipino opponent for the fourth time this weekend at ONE: Century- Part II.
After having spent so much cage time with Belingon, Fernandes is confident he has his rival’s style fully figured out.
“I’ve been preparing for Kevin Belingon the same way that I always have. I’ve beaten him before, I believe I won the rematch, and I was definitely winning the third fight back in Japan,” Fernandes said to LowKickMMA.
“Having prepared and faced Kevin three times in my career, I have a pretty good grasp of what he does and what his tendencies are, where his weaknesses lie. I continue to improve my grappling because I know that will be my main weapon, but as I showed in the last fight, I can strike with him, so I have put attention to that as well. Come October 13th, wherever the fight goes, I know I can defeat him.”
Since making his promotional debut back in 2013, Fernandes has witnessed first-hand the growth and evolution of ONE Championship from a regional promotion to a global powerhouse. During that time Fernandes has racked up ten victories, including seven consecutive title defenses. There is little doubt that when the Manus native retires, he will have earned his spot in the company’s Hall Of Fame.
“I am very honored and very blessed to have been part of this amazing organization pretty much since the beginning. Seeing how much the landscape has changed now, from just a few shows a year to a show nearly every month and being able to break into new areas and new markets every year, it’s just great to watch. I’m really proud to have been part of the growth, and I’m proud to continue to be a part of its continuous development.” he said
For now, the only thought on Fernandes’s mind is defeating Belingon. The fact that this bout is happening in Tokyo, a city Fernandes has a strong connection with, due to his time with the now-defunct Dream promotion, is neither here nor there for the reigning champ.
“Tokyo will always hold a special place in my heart because of my MMA history there and all the time I’ve spent competing there. Tokyo feels like a home to me, so to say. But I really don’t mind where we fight. It can be in Singapore or Thailand, or Manila, for that matter.
“What matters is that I am the champion, and I will defend my belt against whoever is put in front of me. Against Kevin, specifically, I want to defeat him convincingly and without doubts to show that I am the rightful ONE Bantamweight World Champion.”
The prelims for ONE: CENTURY PART II start on B/R Live at 4:00 am (EST). The main card will start at 6:30 am EST on Sunday, 13 October.