ONE Bantamweight World Champion and five-time BJJ world champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (20-3) may be the greatest bantamweight of all-time.
The Brazilian is enjoying a 12-bout win streak, has answered a promotional record six title challenges with victory, and has not lost a bout in almost six years. But if he wants to continue racking up those incredible numbers, then he will have to defeat a surging rival, who like himself, is unbeaten in ONE Championship.
“Andrew Leone is a very tough kid. He is young, he is good at wrestling, he is good at mixed martial arts, and he has very good transitions,” the 37-year-old champion acknowledges. “For sure, it is going to be a very interesting fight. It is going to be a good fight for people to watch. I am so excited.”
Ever since “The Flash” first appeared in ONE, he has demolished the toughest opposition the world has had to offer. Fernandes, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with heavy hands and sharp kicks, steamrolled Gustavo Falciroli in his promotional debut at ONE: PRIDE OF A NATION back in August 2012,
The Brazilian then took the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship in May 2013 by defeating former Shooto Featherweight Champion Koetsu Okazaki via unanimous decision. Fernandes finally became the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion after besting then-titleholder Soo Chul Kim via unanimous decision later that October.
Ever since then, he has been cleaning out the rest of the division. He currently holds wins over Finnish grappler Toni “Dynamite” Tauru, Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon,” and most recently, Australian sensation Reece “Lightning” McLaren. While that is an impressive list of conquests, “The Flash” credits all of his success to preparation.
“I train hard,” he begins. “Confidence in my training is more important. Training makes me win, I always say that. I am confident that I will bring a good fight. That is how I am. That is always what I do. I can bring the victory, for sure.”
Fernandes will need to be at his best if he is looking to defeat Leone, who is feeling refreshed after over a year away from action.
The American-born grappling extraordinaire first appeared in ONE back in 2013, where he defeated Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio via decision. Two more impressive wins would follow over former Shooto Bantamweight Champion Shinichi Kojima, and common opponent Okazaki, whom he defeated in February 2016.
A series of unfortunate injuries kept Leone on the shelf for the rest of the year, but after 17 long months, Leone is fully recovered, and raring to resume his martial arts career. His comeback begins with the stiffest test possible, being a bout against a champion who has not lost since 2010.
Leone, a New Yorker who now takes up residence on the shores of Indonesia as the co-owner of Bali MMA, is a former collegiate wrestler armed with a BJJ black belt and an improved Muay Thai game. Ever since making his professional debut in 2010, he has amassed a decorated 8-2 record.
Undeterred, Fernandes will prepare diligently for the challenge, as he always has.
“I train every day hard. I train hard, I have discipline. I do everything I have to do, so that my performance is good (come fight night). I don’t feel pressure,” says the champion. “I don’t only train hard, I train smart. I try to be very wise, and I try to peak just before the fight. That’s my job. It’s what have been doing for 21 years.”