Bibiano Fernandes continues at the top of the ONE Championship bantamweight division, and he doesn’t think the promotion expected — or wanted — him to beat Martin Nguyen at Saturday’s event in Bangkok.
Nguyen captured the ONE featherweight and lightweight belts with impressive knockouts in the second half of 2017, and decided to try to claim the bantamweight gold in 2018. He took on Fernandes in the main event of ONE: Ill Will in Thailand, but the experienced Brazilian came out victorious via split decision.
”I was a bit of a strategist in the fight,” Fernandes told MMA Fighting. “You have to be at this level we’re fighting. This guy has a heavy hand, so I did a balanced and smart game, seeing where to work. I tried to take him down, but he didn’t want to go to the ground, so I had to trade with him standing.”
“The Flash” improved to 10-0 under the ONE Championship banner, and now rides a 14-fight winning streak. Fernandes is the longest-reigning champion in ONE history, and feels like the promotion would prefer some fresh air and a young face to promote.
”They promoted him a lot,” Fernandes said of Nguyen. “I have eight title defenses, and in my opinion, they want to end that. They want someone to take me down at any cost, They thought ‘this guy, a heavier fighter with heavy hands, long reach, will definitely beat Bibiano.’ They definitely thought he would beat me, but it didn’t go the way they hoped. They were ready for him defeating me.
“I was talking to my wife about it, and there’s nothing I can do,” he continued. “I have a job to do and that was to defeat this guy. If he wins, that would open a lot of doors for them in Vietnam and other places, but it didn’t go as they expected. My job is to put on a performance and destroy (Nguyen’s) game. I knew how he fights and what was the path to victory.”
Fernandes turns 38 years old Friday and has no plans of fighting for more than two years. Now enjoying some days off with his wife in one of Thailand’s beautiful islands, Fernandes will wait to hear what’s next for him.
Unbeaten in nine straight title fights in ONE, “The Flash” told MMA Fighting prior to the fight that he’s not interested in moving up to featherweight to try to win another belt, and he continues to have that same mentality — unless the promotion reaches out with an offer that makes sense for him.
”I don’t like to talk about money, but we have to. I’m a professional athlete,” Fernandes said. “I have a manager that helps me, and he says that moving up in weight and fight for the same money, I’d rather stay in my division and break more records. Unless it’s something really good. I’m defending my belt, facing young up-an-comers.
”Let’s see what they say. They had no doubt that this guy would knock me out. He moved down in weight, heavier and stronger, and I took the fight. It was a good fight for me, a two-weight champion that was knocking everybody out, so I went there. I did what they wanted. Let’s see what happens next.”