Bibiano Fernandes: The Forgotten Bantamweight Kingpin

61f9e7fc98b11beda1f7427d58379565When listing off the top bantamweight fighters in the world, names like UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw, Renan Barao and current WSOF torchbearer Marlon Moraes immediately come to mind. But often overlooked in the conversation is ONE FC 135-pound champion Bibiano Fernandes. The Brazilian sounded like man who just won the lottery when he spoke with MMAOddsBreaker. No he’s not a millionaire, but rather humble father of three who is appreciative of everything he has. Fernandes (17-3) isn’t a household name in North America and he’s ok with that. Unlike most fighters, the 34-year old doesn’t compete in this sport for the money or the fame. “I fight for me; I fight for family, friends and the people that believe in me.” Fernandes told MMAOddsBreaker. “I know my skills and talent. If somebody wants to [watch me fight] that’s great. If not thank you, I’m ok. I’m still [living].” Glancing over Fernandes’ resume and a few things stand out. He was the first and only multi-weight champion in the now defunct DREAM promotion, winning both their featherweight and bantamweight titles. He holds wins over current Bellator 135-pound champion Joe Warren and former DREAM lightweight champion Joachim Hansen. Fernandes started his MMA career in 2004 and tells the story of fighting UFC standout Urijah Faber in just his second pro-fight. “[My career started] with jiu-jitsu in Brazil and one time was doing a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions. Then my friend asked [if I would try MMA] and compete in for – Brazilian MMA promotion- Jungle Fights. I tried Jungle Fights and I won my fight. Later my friend asked if I wanted to fight Urijah Faber. I had that mentality from jiu-jitsu [that I was always up for a challenge] so I said “for sure I’ll fight [him].”And I [went in] there and fought in King of the Cage for the belt. I lost, but it was a very good experience. That loss early in my career made me into the fighter I am today.” Along with the start of his MMA career, Fernandes also experienced change in his personal life. Off the recommendation of a friend, the ONE FC champion moved from Brazil to Canada where he had a job lined up teaching jiu-jitsu. When he first arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia – a place where he’s been a resident now for nine-years counting – the transition was difficult. “For sure I had culture shock in the beginning. It wasn’t too easy for me, especially coming from the hot weather [in Brazil] to the cold weather [in Vancouver]. But you know what? The one thing I’ve learned about life, if you’re happy it doesn’t matter where you live. I love Canada; it’s a great country, great people, I’ve very glad to live here.” The question that always gets asked about the Vancouver native is why hasn’t he signed with the UFC? His loyalty to Canada almost landed him a spot with the UFC, as the promotion made its first trip to Western Canada in 2012. Ahead of UFC 149 in Calgary, then free agent Fernandes was rumored to be making his promotional debut against Canadian Roland Delorme. “Very simple, I was [asked to fight for the UFC] and they kept pushing me and pushing me. I didn’t like the deal they [offered me]. [They] tried make a deal with me that was very low and needed [more time to speak] with my family.” Fernandes opted not to make a deal and explained that the UFC’s aggressive negotiation tactics were off-putting. Ultimately this made things easier for him to sign with ONE FC, an organization based in Asia, where Fernandes already had a big following. The decision was one that he felt at the time would be better for him in the long-run and more importantly for his family. The father of three splits time during his training camps with Kultar “Black Mumba” Gill in Abbotsford, B.C. (at Mumba MMA) and in Kirkland, Washington with Matt Hume (and UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson) at AMC. Since making his ONE FC debut in 2012, Fernandes has remained undefeated and earned the promotion’s (unified) bantamweight championship, with a unanimous decision over Soo Chul Kim at ONE FC: Total Domination in 2013. Most recently the Mumba MMA product dispatched Dae Hwan Kim back in December to make the second defence of his 135-pound title. “When [you’re fighting a] guy who comes in and has never lost, he thinks he can beat everybody. Before the fight [Kim] tried pushing me, crazy, say a lot of s**t to me. But I said “I will choke that guy out.” At the beginning he landed some elbows. I went for my jiu-jitsu, transitioned to his back and choked him out.” So what’s next for the bantamweight standout? Rumors have been circulating about a possible catch weight bout at 140-pounds, with current ONE FC lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. Fernandes welcomes that challenge but mentions that he doesn’t have anything lined up. When he’s not fighting, the DREAM veteran tries to live his everyday life as a champion, constantly giving back and setting a good example for others. “When I’m fighting, that’s all [I put my energy towards]. I like helping people. My life is pretty busy I wake up early in the morning. I have three kids; it’s hard to have a baby sitter. I take care of the kids with my wife. I like to stay in shape; I don’t drink [or] party. A champion doesn’t want to lose focus like that.” Fernandes admits he’ll likely finish out his career with ONE FC and continue to help grow the organization. While he’s not fighting guys in the UFC, he strongly maintains his status as one of the top fighters at 135lbs. When asked about how he matches up against UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, he had a dignified response. “That question is very simple, I’ll fight against anyone. I’ve fought a lot of tough guys, it doesn’t matter who it is.” Fernandes’ overwhelming positivity is contagious and he’s one of the few fighters in the sport who seems genuinely happy with every aspect of his life. A relative unknown in North America, he’s become a superstar in the Philippines which has been frequent stop for ONE FC. Fans mob him after events, but rather than shy away, he embraces the support. More importantly, Fernandes encompasses what it means to be a true martial artist, a facet that seems to be lost in the sport today.

Written by James Lynch

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