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ONE champion Bibiano Fernandes approaches free agency targeting big paychecks

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Bibiano Fernandes (ONE FC) ONE Championship

With eight wins in eight fights under the ONE Championship banner, Bibiano Fernandes’ run in the promotion might come to an end in 2016.

The jiu-jitsu specialist, who won the interim bantamweight title in 2013 and unified it five months later, will become a free agent at the end of the month.

“My contract expires on Dec. 30,” Fernandes, who has defended his belt five times, told MMA Fighting. “I haven't spoken with (ONE) yet. I haven't decided what I’m going to do next.”

Fernandes, who turns 37 in March, has decisions to make, but makes it clear that the financial aspect is the most important factor for him at this point.

“I fought for free in the past, for the challenge, but I’m over this now,” Fernandes said. “I have proved who I am and what I can do. If someone gives me the opportunity to face the best challenges, and it makes sense financially for me, I’ll definitely go there. I had a lot of tough fights here, but fighting elsewhere without a good paycheck is not worth it. I just broke my nose, man. I’m not fighting just to fight. I’m over this phase.

“If you’re starting your career now, train hard and your time will come,” he continued. “Do you want to become a champion one day? You will be. But don’t forget that you have responsibilities in life. You have to eat, sleep, take care of your family. Who will worry about that?”

Fernandes was close to signing with the UFC in 2012. The promotion officially announced that he was set to face Roland Delorme at UFC 149, but the Brazilian didn't agree to the terms of the contract and went on to sign with ONE Championship instead.

The Brazilian was on a three-fight winning streak back then. Now, he has won 12 in a row with six finishes.

“If I’m just a fighter, I’m sorry, it’s not worth it. I want to be able to care care of my health, my nose and my brain, take care of myself, and be able to provide to my family,” he said. “Many fighters fight as fans, but not me. I’m a fighter, I’m a professional, and there’s this side of the sport nobody sees. I have to be careful with my decision. I’m fine now, but I might not be tomorrow. Something might pop up in my brain tomorrow, we never know.”

Fernandes enters free agency coming off a split-decision victory over Reece McLaren in Pasay City, Philippines. The Brazilian remains unbeaten in the promotion, but had to dig deep to take the belt back to Canada.

“A fight always brings surprises, there’s always something we can’t control,” Fernandes said. “The first two rounds were easy. The only thing is that he switched stances, landed a good left hand and broke my nose. That was one of the surprises I had in the fight. It caught me right between the nose and the eye, and it was blurry. I had double vision the entire fight.

“I had to stay focused. I couldn't do take him down because when I shot, my nose would hit his leg and start bleeding again. I said ‘I can’t take this guy down, I have to stand and trade with him.’”

Another surprise, Fernandes says, was the fact that McLaren is a southpaw. McLaren entered the bout with a 9-3 MMA record, and the Brazilian says he didn’t have much tape to study.

“I didn’t train for a southpaw,” the champion said. “I thought he was ‘normal,’ right-handed, and when the fight started, he switched stances and kept running to the left side. I didn't train for that. I didn't know he would do that. He’s young in the sport so I only had a two or three fights to watch. He did switch stances in those fights, but always went back. He had a nice strategy.”