For those who did not grow up in the midst of privilege, trash talk is a cheap commodity. For One Championship bantamweight titleholder Bibiano Fernandes, whose journey to adulthood was a fight for survival, verbal warfare seems useless.
“I don’t have a big mouth, but I bring a good fight, no matter who you are,” Fernandes told Sherdog.com. “I will always do my best and give a good fight for you.”
Fernandes realized at a young age that he had to work for what he wanted in life. In fact, work was the currency with which he paid for his first two years of training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. At the time, he had no idea where it would take him, only that he had a passion and, apparently, a knack for it. Over 10 years, he won 14 gold, silver and bronze International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation medals; he made his professional MMA debut in 2004, winning, not surprisingly, by submission early in the first round.
His hometown of Manaus, Brazil, has long been a breeding ground for grappling champions. Over the years, Fernandes has trained alongside fellow natives and Ultimate Fighting Championship vets Diego Brandao, Carlos Diego Ferreira and many others, and he acknowledged the wealth of talent and instruction in his own backyard.
“They are strong, for sure, a lot of talent there,” Fernandes said, “but MMA still needs to grow there.”
Fernandes still visits his homeland, but he has lived in Washington and trained at AMC Pankration for the last five years; and he has fought around the world for King of the Cage, K-1, Dream and now One Championship. AMC frontman Matt Hume is the vice president of One Championship, but Fernandes denies his coach’s presence had anything to do with his choice to sign with the Singapore-based organization over the UFC.
“He was not a part of it [then],” Fernandes said. “At that time, the opportunity was better for me, not because of Matt but for my family. It was a better opportunity for me, because of how many fans I have in Asia and Brazil and because they are very professional; and I think they really do a good job. There is something here, and I keep coming back again because if you have the right people, when they love the job, it can really grow.”
One Championship is now broadcast in more than 70 countries, with a potential audience in the millions. Groundbreaking events have hit mainland China, and the organization makes regular forays into new countries around Asia. In fact, Fernandes’ forthcoming title defense against Toni Tauru will headline One Championship 29 on Saturday, as the promotion makes its debut in Myanmar.
Whether it was from surviving the hardships of growing up in poverty or through his years of competing in Asia, where trash talking is far less appreciated, Fernandes has no taste for the common prizefighting practice. He maintains respect for every opponent he has faced, from Joachim Hansen and Hiroyuki Takaya to Dae Hwan Kim.
“I don’t ‘beat’ people; the fight just goes my way,” Fernandes said. “When I go into a fight, I don’t think, ‘What kind of guy is this?’ It doesn't matter for me. I have the talent and skill and the responsibility to take care of my wife, kids [and] family.”
As he approaches his latest title defense, rumors of a possible super fight with fellow One Championship titleholder Shinya Aoki persist. Both fighters have shown interest in such a match.
“If he wants to fight me, I will fight him 100 percent, but until now, nobody has called me about it,” Fernandes said. “I’m happy to match him, if that’s what people want to watch. I like the challenge. I fight because I like it, not because I want to hit someone. I want to test the skills I have against the best.”
Fernandes remains focused on the here and now. In fact, he is uncertain about his contract status with One Championship.
“I don’t know, I think it expires next year. I have to look at my contract,” he said. “I don’t want to fight too long, maybe two more years. I have to be responsible to [my] family. Maybe I’ll stop while I’m still the champ, but it doesn’t matter for me. I just want to be successful, in my mind, my heart [and] my body.”