Bibiano Fernandes has been in with the best bantamweights and featherweights in Asia and he has beaten them all during the course of dominant campaigns that have seen him claim two titles with Dream and one with ONE FC.
Masakazu Imanari, Joe Warren, Joachim Hansen, Horoyuki Takaya, Antonio Banuelos, Yoshiro Maeda… Fernandes has beaten them all and more, although Takaya did manage to defeat him in a featherweight rematch.
There is no way of knowing whether or not Fernandes is the best 135-pounder in the world at this point, but it is impossible to prove that he’s not because the Brazilian has been absolutely unbeatable in a division which he hasn’t been defeated in since 2007.
So while Masakatsu Ueda brings an impressive 16-2-2 record into their ONE FC: Rise of Heroes fight, as well as some big wins of his own, Fernandes says he isn’t losing any sleep worrying about the Japanese veteran.
“For me he’s just another opponent; I look at them all the same.”
While Fernandes can’t stop winning at the moment, one thing he has yet to do inside the ONE FC cage is finish a fight, although he has registered a quick-fire submission win over Maeda at Dream 18 since signing for Asia’s leading MMA promotion.
It is a problem that a lot of dominant champions seem to have, with former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre being the obvious example, but Fernandes is determined to score a stoppage against Ueda.
“I really, really want to finish the fight and I believe I will do that,” he said.
On paper Ueda is potentially the best fighter Fernandes has faced since he started competing in Asia and he acknowledges that his next opponent does not have any obvious holes in his game.
“He’s well rounded. I don’t really know what his weakness is, but I will find it at the fight. I don’t think he’s the best opponent I’ve faced recently, as I have had some tough fights with ONE FC already,” he said.
Fernandes is established alongside Shinya Aoki as the face of ONE FC and both are highly ranked fighters who could have ended up in the UFC, but chose to pursue a career competing in Asia.
The name of Ben Askren can be added to the list of ONE FC’s elite pound-for-pound fighters after the former Bellator welterweight king put pen to paper earlier this year. Fernandes is excited about the direction that the promotion is headed in.
“ONE FC is the largest growing organization in the world and their offer came at the right time for me. Victor (Cui) is a great businessman. He knows what he’s doing and the sky is the limit.”
While Brazilian fighters have been making waves all over the world since the sport’s inception, it is only recently that major international events have started to take place in Brazil. Fernandes hasn’t fought in his homeland since making his pro debut in 2004, but says he isn’t in a hurry to return.
“I’ll fight wherever I have to. I’m happy fighting in Asia right now, but you never know the future…”
Should he prevail against Ueda, his future is widely expected to involve a move up to 145 pounds, although Dae Hwan Kim is still waiting in the bantamweight wings. However, Fernandes says that a return to the division in which he claimed his first Dream Grand Prix is far from a foregone conclusion.
“I’m not sure (about moving up in weight) I’ll think about it when the offer presents itself, but everything is possible and it depends on how I feel and the condition of my health,” he said.
As Fernandes himself stated, anything is indeed possible, and Ueda’s camp are very confident they will emerge from ONE FC: Rise of Heroes with a victory. If the Brazilian can secure an eighth successive win then, while people will debate his position in the pound-for-pound rankings, there can be no questioning his greatness.
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