Bibiano Fernandes is approaching what he regards as one of the ‘biggest challenges’ of his career.
Fernandes will defend his ONE Bantamweight World Championship from the rising Martin Nguyen. The 29-year-old challenger recently became a two-division champion in ONE Championship after he knocked out both Marat Gafurov and Eduard Folayang to become the featherweight and lightweight champion in the organization.
The two will headline ONE Championship’s return to Bangkok, Thailand, for ONE: Iron Will on May 24.
Defending his territory
Speaking to the media ahead of what is expected to be an epic showdown this weekend, Fernandes shared that he feels like he needs to defend his territory from Nguyen.
“Everyone is talking about his power and how he’s going to knock me out. I would like to see if he can. When he won the featherweight and lightweight world titles, it was definitely impressive. But this is my division. He’s coming into my territory and I will defend it.”
Fernandes also expressed a sense of excitement to feel the power of Nguyen, who recently starched the much-bigger Eduard Folayang with a perfectly timed right hand.
“I know he has a powerful right hand and a good left hook, so I’m excited to experience them. I’ve studied him and I understand his movements. I’ve seen it all before in my career.
A new challenge
While much of the excitement regarding this fight is due to Nguyen’s meteoric rise, it’s equally a result of Fernandes’ continued dominance in the bantamweight division.
Fernandes, who won the ONE Bantamweight World Championship in October 2013, is the longest reigning champion in ONE Championship history. By the time that he and Nguyen touch gloves this weekend, Fernandes will have been the champion for 1618 days.
Let’s also not forget that Fernandes is undefeated since signing with ONE Championship. The last time that the Brazilian tasted defeat was in 2010 when he lost a unanimous decision to Hiroyuki Takaya.
After six successful title defenses, Fernandes has now moved past the idea of simply defending the belt. Now, the 37-year-old is solely focused on challenging himself against the best of the best.
“I’m not just competing for the belt anymore, to me, it’s all about challenges now. I want to challenge myself and see how far my skills have progressed. Martin Nguyen is a great challenge for me, one of the biggest of my career.”
If Bibiano Fernandes plans to walk away as the champion this weekend, he’ll need to execute his gameplan with perfection. If Nguyen’s recent knockouts have proved anything, it’s that there is no room for mistakes against the heavy-handed Australian.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.