Fernandes ‘Won’t Be Intimidated’ By Lineker’s Knockout Power
ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes may be the most dominant titleholder in ONE Championship history, but the reigning king will face the most dangerous test of his mixed martial arts career on Friday, 11 February.
That evening, the Brazilian legend is scheduled to defend his crown against #1-ranked contender and surging knockout artist John “Hands of Stone” Lineker at ONE: BAD BLOOD, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
When Fernandes steps into the Circle for this main event showdown, he’ll be making his 12th ONE World Title defense – far more than anyone else in the promotion.
But while the 41-year-old BJJ black belt is excited about that remarkable achievement, he’s extra fired up to settle a score with his fellow Brazilian. “Hands of Stone” has been a thorn in the champion’s side since joining ONE, impressing inside of the Circle and making bold claims outside of it.
The 31-year-old Lineker debuted with a dominant unanimous decision over Muin “Tajik” Gafurov, scored a crushing knockout against former bantamweight king Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, and then did the same to American star Troy “Pretty Boy” Worthen.
The rising contender also took to social media and called for a ONE Bantamweight World Title shot, which rubbed Fernandes the wrong way. But while “The Flash” is annoyed, he is up for the challenge and eager to shut down his compatriot.
Before these superstars collide in “The Lion City,” Fernandes spoke to ONE Championship about his beef with Lineker, why he can stop the challenger’s meteoric rise, the new generation of BJJ practitioners, the immense MMA potential of Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, and more.
ONE: We heard this feud between you and John Lineker started on social media, but we wanted to get your side of the story. What has made this rivalry so heated?
Bibiano Fernandes: There’s no rivalry. I have nothing against him. He is the one who wanted to create something that didn’t exist. I’m a professional, I’m there to fight. That was his way of earning a title shot. That’s my job. He can say whatever he wants, and when it’s time for a fight, I’ll do whatever I have to. I come forward and fight, and I hope it’s a great fight for the fans, too.
ONE: John told us the following: “Bibiano saying he would fight me even on the street is a delinquent attitude.” How do you respond to that?
BF: I’m old school, but I don’t have much to say about it. But he kept texting me all the time. He was trying to promote himself and couldn’t.
ONE: Also, John said he respects you as a World Champion and admits that you opened up a lot of doors for Brazilian fighters. However, he also said, “I believe that his heyday is over.” What are your thoughts on that?
BF: I’m sure I opened a lot of doors for Brazilians. I believe that I am a reference in the martial arts world, so I am happy that I helped some Brazilian athletes. I thank him for recognizing that.
In relation to my heyday being over, it all depends on how the athlete takes care of the body, mind, and diet. All I know is that I’m going to make my 12th World Title defense.
ONE: Give us your breakdown. What do you feel are John’s strengths and weaknesses?
BF: I’m just going to talk about his strengths. He has a good low kick, a good guillotine, has a very good hand, and hits hard. The weaknesses I won’t reveal because I will exploit them in the fight.
ONE: He has 16 career knockouts. Does his punching power intimidate you, and are you confident going toe-to-toe with him in the striking department?
BF: I’m ready to strike with anyone. I trained a lot for this fight, brought some tough sparring partners to my camp to sharpen my striking, and I’m ready for wherever the fight unfolds. I’m definitely going to have to do some striking with him because that’s his style. I won’t be intimidated by his hands, though. Let’s go to war.
ONE: How do you expect this fight to play out?
BF: I think this fight doesn’t go to five rounds. I believe that we will enter [the fight] cautiously at the beginning, analyzing what each other can offer. But he’s a strong, explosive guy, who comes forward all the time, and I like that because most of the opponents I faced were always retreating. So, it will be a cool fight for me.
ONE: Earlier, we talked about how you opened doors for other Brazilian athletes. As a multiple-time BJJ World Champion, what are your thoughts on the new generation of BJJ practitioners? What do you think of their skills and techniques?
BF: Regarding the new techniques, I think it has evolved a lot. It has the berimbolo and many variations of the De La Riva guard. Today, jiu-jitsu is much more professional than in my time. There are a lot of new talents emerging. It’s really cool to follow jiu-jitsu these days.
ONE: One of those talents is Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, who made the switch to MMA last year in ONE Championship. How far do you think he can go in the sport?
BF: Undoubtedly, “Buchecha” can go very far in MMA. Of course. it all depends on his ability to adapt to MMA and the situations he will have to go through if he wants to be a World Champion one day. But surely, “Buchecha” has everything to get there. It will just depend on him.
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