Bibiano Fernandes is the ONE FC interim 135-pound champion and there has been talk of him moving up to featherweight for a super fight with Shinya Aoki, but next on the agenda for the Brazilian appears to be a unification bout in October or November.
“I will be fighting in fall. I’m not sure who I am fighting next, but considering I am the interim champion, I'm assuming that a fight with Soo Chul Kim would be my next step,” said Fernandes. I've watched his fights. He's a tough guy, but I need to feel him in the ring to decide how good he is.”
One swing of Chris Weidman’s left hand put proposed UFC superfights on hold, but ONE FC has a potentially huge match-up of its own with its two best pound-for-pound fighters, both capable of competing at featherweight.
Aoki (33-6-1) is on track to make his 145-pound debut later this year, while Fernandes (14-3) has already proved he can compete in the division by beating four separate opponents to win the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix in 2009.
A featherweight match-up between these two would truly be a battle for pound-for-pound supremacy in Asia and Fernandes is not ruling it out.
“Yes, I would consider it, but it is up to ONE FC.”
Fernandes easily outpointed Koetsu Okazaki at ONE FC: Rise to Power at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila in May to claim the interim title and register his sixth straight win. He came close to submitting the Shooto veteran in the opening round and was a little frustrated with his opponent’s defensive tactics.
“I was surprised he didn't tap in the first round. He is very tough and knows jiu-jitsu very well, but I feel he tried to survive. When a guy runs too much, it's not easy to fight him, but he's a tough kid and I respect him. There is always room for improvement, but I’m happy with my performance,” he said.
Fernandes finished Yoshiro Maeda, the reigning Deep bantamweight champion, in emphatic style at Dream 18 on New Year’s Eve, but both his ONE FC fights have gone the distance. Against Okazaki, he showed that he is capable of setting the same quick pace for five rounds, even busting out a set of press ups on the final bell, and says he is just happy to finally be getting more time inside the cage.
“I enjoy fighting, so I didn't mind that my fight (with Okazaki) went to five rounds. Fighting sometimes can be quick, sometimes it can take longer, but I am ready to fight for one minute or 25 minutes.”
Fernandes famously turned down a UFC contract to sign with ONE FC after Dream’s demise had rendered him the most eligible of free agents. The decision raised a few eyebrows, but he already has a belt to show for it and, after initially making a name for himself in Japan, he seems to have found a home fighting for Asia’s biggest MMA organization.
“It's a good organization and I've enjoyed it so far. I feel great, not only being ONE FC champion, but getting to fight in front of 20,000 people in Manila.”
ONE FC’s next event is set for Jakarta on Sept. 13. While Fernandes probably won’t be fighting on that card, further 2013 shows are reportedly already booked in Singapore, Manila and Kuala Lumpur, with one of them likely to be headlined by a bantamweight unification bout between the Brazilian and Soo Chul Kim.