ONE Championship has a pair of two-division titleholders, but don’t expect Bibiano Fernandes to try the same.
Aung La N’Sang holds the middleweight and cruiserweight belts, and Martin Nguyen, the featherweight and lightweight championship, will attempt to collect a third title when he faces Bibiano Fernandes at Saturday’s ONE Championship: Ill Will in Bangkok, Thailand.
Fernandes is a former bantamweight and featherweight champion at the now-defunct Japanese promotion DREAM, and has won eight straight title fights inside the ONE cage since 2013. If successful on March 24, is “The Flash” willing to move up to featherweight and try to take one of Nguyen’s belts?
”I like to focus my energies on where I am now, and my mission now is to beat him,” Fernandes told MMA Fighting. “I will make that decision after I defend my belt. I can continue defending my belt and break records. Breaking records is more important to me. There’s another guy that is a two-division champion as well, and others will come, but I think that breaking records is more important. I’ve already won belts in a different division.”
”I don’t know how long I’ll continue fighting,” he continued. “Maybe I move up and take his belt, but am I going to go for another belt or beat more records? I’d rather break records. That’s what will make people remember you when you stop fighting. He won a belt and hasn’t defended it. He won another belt and hasn’t defended it either. I don’t think about moving up, I prefer to break records.”
Nguyen has won six in a row, all by stoppage, since suffering his only defeat in MMA in 2015, but hasn’t faced a decorated grappler like Fernandes yet.
”He has a great right hand, comes in with a left hook, but that’s all he has,” said Fernandes, a multiple-time champion in jiu-jitsu with eight submissions in MMA. “My coaches and I watched his fights. I have a high-level jiu-jitsu, so I focused on my jiu-jitsu and my striking, my wrestling. I focused on training to knock him out or submit him. I’m ready to win. I know that he will be aggressive, so I have to be focused and prepared.”
“The Flash” knows that Nguyen “will be aggressive,” but actually expects him to change the way he fights a little bit this time.
”He will change his style, I have no doubt about it,” Fernandes said. “He likes to let his hands go, so I have to be careful, but he knows that I can close the distance well if he does that. He throws his hands too far away and catches guys when they get lazy in close range.
”I know that this guy is good, so I’m going there to show who I am. I was champion at DREAM, I’ve fought many tough guys. This guy has a good hand, but not that spectacular combination. I will be careful because it’s MMA and we have to respect and be careful in order to win.
”One thing that I’ve also noticed in his fights that he always gets dropped, always gets knocked down. He gets hit a lot.”
Nguyen’s only loss in MMA came in a 41-second submission defeat to former ONE featherweight champion Marat Gafurov, and that’s not the only hole the Brazilian sees in his MMA game.
”I saw a lot of holes in his game, man. Holes on the ground, standing, everywhere,” Fernandes said. “I can’t reveal exactly what now because this interview will be posted before the fight [laughs]. This guy is good, but I’ve fought many guys that are tougher than him, like Joachim Hansen. (Nguyen) is good, but I believe in my skills and I’m sure that I will put on a good fight. Maybe I lose, but it won’t be easy for him.”
The 37-year-old Brazilian has gone the distance in four of his last eight 25-minute bouts in ONE, and Nguyen questions the veteran’s gas tank ahead of their superfight.
”He has only fought two rounds before, and his opponents never pushed the pace,” Fernandes said. “When I fight, I’m the only one pushing the pace. If I’m tired, I know you’re tired too because I fight to finish, I’m not there to score points, so you’re tired as well. I will submit you if you make a mistake This guy has never fought a three-round fight, a tough fight. I fight the first three rounds to finish you, and I know that rounds four and five are mine as well.
”I don’t want to get to the fourth round, though,” he added. “Maybe he wants that since he’s talking about it. Maybe he will be cautious. I never doubt my training, my skillset, my performance. I know I had a great training camp.”