Bibiano Fernandes has basically beaten everyone in ONE Championship’s bantamweight division, but several of his former opponents are lining up for a second shot. Among them is Andrew Leone, who can jump to the front of the queue with a win in Manila on Friday.
The American has only ever lost one fight for the promotion and that defeat came at the hands of the Brazilian. He can earn a rematch with Fernandes if he beats Kevin Belingon at ONE: Heroes of Honor, and Leone believes he has what it takes to dethrone the dominant champion.
“Everyone is trying to win the belt (and) I want to get that rematch with Bibiano. I want to show everyone, and show to myself, that plays out differently nine out of 10 times. I am looking forward to that opportunity.”
ONE: Heroes of Honor Will Determine Next Bantamweight Challenger
According to Leone, both he and Belingon have been told their match, which headlines the card at the MOA Arena, is a title eliminator.
“The winner gets the rematch (with Fernandes) and I am excited for this opportunity. Training is going great and I’m going to go out there and put on a good performance for the Filipino fans, and for the world.”
Leone comes from a wrestling background and competed throughout his high school years before switching to MMA. He recently earned a BJJ black belt and sees this as a straightforward striker versus grappler match-up.
“Belingon is a tough guy, knocking everybody out. I look forward to going in there and strangling him.”
There are some big names on Leone’s resume. He’s been in with some seasoned Japanese fighters and highly touted Korean prospects and feels this has helped him develop as a fighter,
“ONE Championship has given me tough matches since I signed with them and I would not have it any other way. My first match was against Geje Eustaquio; my second match was against the number one guy in the world for years, Shinichi Kojima; then I faced Koetsu Okazaki, another Shooto champ, and another guy who has a lot of wins over top bantamweights in ONE.”
Why Andrew Leone is Fighting Out of Bali MMA
Leone’s exploits inside the ONE Championship cage have helped to put Bali MMA on the map. Several fighters from the camp have enjoyed success with the promotion, including Gianni Subba, Stefer Rahardian, and Ev Ting.
Bali might be a long way from his native New York, but Leone feels it is the perfect place to prepare for a fight.
“I have almost been out here 10 years now. We’ve got everything we need out here,” he said.
“I think Bali is a level up in a lot of ways than training in the U.S. There is a certain kind of focus going on over here that everyone has. We are away from the outside world.”
Leone’s older brother Anthony is fighting in Italy this weekend, while his teammates Rahardian and Riski Umar both have ONE Championship bouts booked in Jakarta next month. The 28-year-old says he and his training partners benefit from being in the comparative seclusion of Bali.
“You are not worried about some of the problems you would be when you are in your regular town or in your regular life. You are isolated with your team, who all have the same goal,” he explained.
On his ONE Championship debut in 2013, Leone faced Eustaquio. The American used his grappling and wrestling to completely nullify the striking game of the Team Lakay fighter and claim a one-sided decision win.
Leone dominated that day and he plans to do exactly the same thing to Belingon at ONE: Honor of Heroes.
“I’m going to try and be dominant. That is the game plan: dominance.”
Fighters from Bali MMA have registered impressive performances in Asia and beyond. But a major title remains elusive and Leone is determined to deliver just that by beating Belingon and then avenging his loss to Fernandes.