Before Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes arrived in ONE Championship, he became a global martial arts icon through his spectacular achievements in Japan.
Because of that, the Brazilian has a longstanding affinity for the “The Land Of The Rising Sun,” and he is delighted to return to its capital on 13 October to defend his ONE Bantamweight World Title against Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon at ONE: CENTURY PART II.
The 39-year-old will compete at Tokyo’s famous Ryogoku Kokugikan, and aims to end the most epic rivalry in the history of The Home Of Martial Arts by cementing his legacy as his division’s undisputed king, and extend his record as the organization’s most dominant titleholder.
“The Flash” first competed in Japan in 2007, but it was his 2009 run in the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix that elevated him to greatness.
“Everybody in Brazil always wanted to fight in Japan,” he says. “It was the dream to go there for all of the fighters because of the culture and the history of martial arts.”
Despite being relatively new to mixed martial arts with just five professional bouts on his record, Fernandes jumped at the chance to compete in the tournament to showcase his skills against high-level opponents.
“It was a great thing in my life. I really showed that I can fight,” he adds.
“I was coming over from jiu–jitsu, and I had to fight really tough guys. I showed that I can be a great fighter.”
The AMC Pankration athlete gave up a lot of experience in the opening and quarterfinal rounds of the tournament. But despite his rawness, he took home two unanimous decision wins – one over Takafumi Otsuka and the other against Japanese legend Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari.
Those wins elevated him from the tournament’s dark horse to its white knight. And on October 6, 2009, he defeated Greco-Roman wrestling World Champion Joe Warren and Japanese standout Hiroyuki Takaya to become the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix World Champion.
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“Man, it was tough. I had some tough fights there, but I learned a lot. The final with Takaya was so hard, but I got the victory,” he recalls.
“Beating Joe Warren was one of the greatest moments. He was a really great wrestler, but he talked a lot of trash before the fight. I went in and beat him in less than a minute with my jiu–jitsu.”
A couple of years later, Fernandes took on another challenge in a new division as he looked to replicate his featherweight success in the DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix.
He delivered three more sublime performances – including the first knockout of his career in the final – to become the DREAM Bantamweight World Champion.
As arguably the hottest bantamweight in the world, the Brazilian then inked a deal with ONE Championship and went on to become its most decorated athlete and one of its biggest stars through his domination of the division.
In March – more than six years on from his last outing in “The Land Of The Rising Sun” – Fernandes returned to Japan to reclaim the ONE Bantamweight World Title from Belingon in a bout he believes he was destined for.
“It sounds crazy, but before ONE announced the [ONE: A NEW ERA] show in Tokyo, I had a dream, and I saw the rising sun of Japan,” he explains.
“A few months later, I was back in Japan and competing there.”
“The Flash” regained his belt, but he was not happy with the way he did it. The bout ended because of a foul by Belingon that resulted in his disqualification.
Now the Brazilian will square off against “The Silencer” for the fourth time. He wants to end their rivalry by winning in style, and Japan is the perfect place to do it.
The AMC Pankration representative wants to honor the country that nurtured his growth from mixed martial arts novice to international superstar.
“The people like me,” he states. “I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m nice. I am polite. Maybe because I am brave or tough.”
“My time in Japan and the Japanese people taught me that you must have pride – be proud of yourself no matter what – and I learned about respect, honor, and bushido.
“I have a lot of fans there, and I can’t wait to go back and perform for them.”
- Watch PART I in USA on 12 October at 8pm EST and PART II on 13 October at 4am EST
- Watch PART I in India on 13 October at 5:30am IST and PART II at 1:30pm IST
- Watch PART I in Indonesia on 13 October at 7am WIB and PART II at 3pm WIB
- Watch PART I in Singapore on 13 October at 8am SGT and PART II at 4pm SGT
- Watch PART I in the Philippines on 13 October at 8am PHT and PART II at 4pm PHT
- Watch PART I in Japan on 13 October at 9am JST and PART II at 5pm JST
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.