When Dae Hwan Kim stopped Kevin Belingon in March, he knew instinctively what was coming next and, even as he basked in the glory of a first-round submission win over the highly rated Filipino, his mind was already turning to reigning champion Bibiano Fernandes.
Kim is convinced that a combination of thorough preparation and fervent belief will be enough for him to become the first man in four years to beat the ONE FC 135-pound champion when they meet in Manila on Friday night.
“I’ve been preparing for this fight for six months, focusing on Bibiano Fernandes since June. I just trained hard and worshipped God and this gives me strong energy and inspiration.”
Their title fight will be the main event of ONE FC: Warrior’s Way, which is set for the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila and Kim finds himself in the unusual position of being an undefeated underdog.
The 27-year-old holds a 10-0-1 record. He’s coming off back-to-back stoppage wins inside the ONE FC cage and is seven years the junior of Fernandes, but believes the Brazilian is still very much in his prime.
“Think of other major MMA organizations, fighters are more likely to be in their best shapes when they are in their mid-thirties, but while his other opponents might have been nervous because they were facing the great guy Bibiano Fernandes, I believe I can knock him out. God is with me.”
Kim’s impressive record made him one of the most eligible free agents in Asia last year, and he says he decided to put pen to paper with ONE FC despite serious interest from the UFC.
“ONE FC gave me an offer and then the UFC gave me an offer a week a later, but the ONE FC offer was bigger and being world champion of the ONE FC is my dream. It would be an honor.”
The Korean, who has a background in Muay Thai, might be fully focused on the considerable challenge in front of him as he prepares to face Fernandes, but he did drop one intriguing hint about his future plans.
“My dream is to be the strongest bantamweight champion in the world and I am going to take over one more weight division in the future.”
Whereas Fernandes tends to only train if he has a fight lined up, Kim is in the gym year round and feels he has been building up a head of steam ever since that impressive submission victory over Belingon.
“Kevin Belingon was a very strong opponent and the biggest threat to my dream of getting a title match. I think I was able to defeat him in the first round because God was with me and after that I took a break for two weeks and then helped my brother prepare for his fight which he won and I have been training ever since.”
Kim has never experienced defeat but he has never faced an opponent of Fernandes’ caliber either. Dec. 5 will be the biggest opportunity of the Korean’s career, but the young contender believes he has what it takes to depose a legend.
“Bibiano Fernandes has sat on the throne for a very long time. Now, it’s time for him to come down.”
Fans around Asia can catch ONE FC: ‘Warrior’s Way’ live on FOX Sports 1 while fans from around the world can purchase the event for just US$9.99 from http://www.onefc.com/livestream.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)