What motivates a man of 37 who hasn’t lost a fight in seven years? For Bibiano Fernandes it is about the money, but he’s not interested in sports cars or diamond rings or any of the traditional trappings of fame for a prize fighter.
The Brazilian is a father of three and he doesn’t have to look too far to find a reason to continue competing and defending his ONE Championship bantamweight belt.
“Being a champion today is my job. I work hard, but I provide for my family, I take care of my family. You know what I mean? I have to work.”
It might sound like a hardship, but Fernandes, who defends his title for the sixth time at ONE: Kings & Conquerors has had it much worse. As a young boy growing up in Manaus, he could only dream of the kind of comfort his family currently enjoys in Canada.
“When I was like seven my mother passed away and my father, I don’t know what happened to him, maybe he’s in heaven or something? But I always knew what I wanted for my life. You know what I mean? I know what kind of direction I want to go.”
Fernandes’ life story is one of upward trajectory. ONE Championship doesn’t disclose details about fighter purses, but the Brazilian is known to be one of the promotion’s top earners and definitely takes home a six figure sum every time he travels to Asia to compete in the cage.
Many of the best paid stars in MMA let success get to their head. That’s not the case with Fernandes. He’s content to quietly proceed with the business of beating every single opponent ONE Championship finds for him. The list currently stands at eight and he plans to make Andrew Leone number nine.
The American is challenging him in Macau on Saturday night (local time) and Fernandes has left nothing to chance in terms of his preparation.
“My kids are on spring break right now and they wake up in the morning, so I watch the kids, feed the kids. After that, I went to wrestling today and learn the technique, rolled a little bit, then I swim for 25 minutes straight in the pool. I swim for twenty-five minutes,” Fernandes said, describing his training for the fight. “Yesterday I had a hard training, so today was technique and movement and swimming. Tomorrow, next day, I have Jiu-Jitsu and sprints. Every day I do training. ”
Fernandes might not be able to go all out in training every single day. But he went five rounds with an opponent 12 years his junior last December, which suggests that, whatever the Brazilian is doing to get ready for fights, it’s working just fine.
Leone has won three fights out of three for ONE Championship and comes from a wrestling background, but Fernandes has no worries in that respect.
“He’s good at wrestling, but I believe my wrestling is the same as his or better. My wrestling is pretty good too.”
Fernandes oozes confidence and you only need to look at his record to understand why. He’s 20-3 overall, but lost two of his first three fights after getting thrown in with Urjah Faber and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto at the sort of career stage when most mixed martial artists are matched with novices.
Since then he’s only lost once, and that fight was at featherweight. He won tournaments with Dream in two separate divisions and the collection of trophies and titles which Fernandes has accumulated while fighting in Asia must take up considerable space in his Canadian home.
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Fernandes knows he can’t fight forever, but he’s still hungry and motivated and has no intention of walking away from the sport just yet. It’s not just about the money, although that is always going to be a factor for a man with three children to feed.
The Brazilian simply isn’t sick of the sport. He’s not jaded or bored or fed up with the process of training and fighting. After all these years, Fernandes still feels he is learning his trade.
“I never think I’m the best, never. If somebody says ‘I’m the best of all’ they have a weakness and will stop competing. I’m not the best in the world, I want to improve every day because I can only can learn from new experiences every time I fight.”
The concept that the Brazilian might still be finding ways to improve is a scary one for the rest of the bantamweight division. Anyone hoping that complacency might creep in for Fernandes is also destined for disappointment and he will be looking to provide yet more proof of his greatness in Macau on Saturday.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)
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