Although he is embarking on an impressive 14-bout winning streak, which includes a record-setting feat of eight successful title defenses in the promotion, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes prepares for what he perceives as the most difficult bout of his long reign as the division’s kingpin.
The 38-year-old Brazilian champion is slated to put his coveted gold-plated strap on the line against interim bantamweight titleholder Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon of the Philippines in the co-main event of ONE: HEART OF THE LION, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 9 November.
Fernandes may be entering the scheduled five-round championship clash as the clear favorite to win due to his outstanding curriculum vitae, but underestimating a familiar foe like Belingon could result to a big blunder.
“Kevin Belingon has earned the highest level of my respect. If anything, there is no chance of me underestimating him. That would be unwise. We’ve all seen his improvement as a martial artist,” he said.
Both men stood opposite each other for the first time in January 2016, with Fernandes pulling off a first-round submission victory over Belingon to remain as the ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
Ever since their initial encounter over two years ago, Fernandes and Belingon have gone from success to success.
Since yielding to Fernandes, Belingon bulldozed six top contenders in ONE Championship’s talent-filled 65.8-kilogram weight class, including a match that in theory, he did not have to accept but undoubtedly secured him a date with his Brazilian rival.
In front of his home crowd last July, Belingon defeated two-division world champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen via unanimous decision to capture the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship strap.
Fernandes was at cageside when Belingon toppled Nguyen, noticing the evident evolution of the 30-year-old native of Kiangan, Ifugao from a pure striker to an all-around competitor.
“I am preparing for the best Kevin Belingon possible, and that is the only way I can prepare to be at my best. I believe this match is going to be a battle between two top-notch martial artists. It is going to be a battle from start to finish,” he stated.
“I’ve seen many of his fights, including his last one in Manila against Martin Nguyen. He’s more of a striker, but he has picked up his game remarkably. He is a different fighter now. That makes him so dangerous,” Fernandes continued.
Belingon may have exhibited a new facet of his growing skill set that could pose a huge problem to the Brazilian legend, but Fernandes seems not to be worried about it as he sees himself as a different mixed martial artist as well.
“I’m not looking past Kevin Belingon,” he declared. “Every fight is different, and each fighter has his or her strengths and weaknesses. We’ve expanded our skills since the last time we fought each other. He will come in prepared, but one thing is for sure: I will have my hand raised.”