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5 most intense and personal rivalries in ONE Championship history

Kevin Belingon (left) and Bibiano Fernandes (right) had one of the most storied rivalries in ONE Championship history. (Credits: @bibianofernandes via Instagram)
Kevin Belingon (left) and Bibiano Fernandes (right) had one of the most storied rivalries in ONE Championship history. (Credits: @bibianofernandes via Instagram)
Duane Lucas Pascua
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ONE Championship has had its fair share of intense rivalries through the years.

Though it prides itself on imposing 'Bushido' amongst its fighters, there have been some intense animosities that snuck through the otherwise straight-edge organization. It's the fight business after all. Once you put two fighters in the cage and make them fight for a prize, tensions can truly arise.

Ahead of their scheduled fight at ONE Championship: X, bantamweight champ Bibiano Fernandes and his opponent, former UFC vet John Lineker, have had some harsh words for each other.

We're not sure where the bad blood came from, but it's definitely bringing more eyes to this budding rivalry. Watch their face-off video here:

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Whether the beef is rooted in something personal or just professional competitiveness, rivalries truly garner attention from fans. They weave a familiar story of adversaries facing each other.

It is, most importantly, the competitiveness of the fighters that truly brings memorable moments to every rivalry. Nothing like the unwillingness to lose to someone you dislike as motivation to win.

Let's revisit the ONE archive and rank some of the most intense and at times personal rivalries in ONE Championship history.


#5. The strawweight rivalry between Joshua Pacio and Yosuke Saruta

The rivalry between Joshua 'The Passion' Pacio and Yosuke Saruta for the ONE Championship strawweight belt is as intense as it gets. When the belt is on the line, stakes inevitably get higher. Though this rivalry is purely out of pursuit for gold, the fights were fiercely contested and razor-close.

The two exchanged holding the belt after splitting the first two fights 1-1, with Pacio scoring a headkick KO in the second bout. Saruta had to bounce back with two dominant wins to get another shot at the championship.

The violent trilogy came to a conclusion in a rubber match where Pacio dispatched his Japanese foe early. Pacio rocked Saruta with an overhand right after catching an inside leg kick. From there, the Filipino swarmed the challenger for the TKO win.

The two have since put their rivalry aside to become friends outside the ring, with the champion even posting a photo of them together on social media:


#4. Angela Lee and Xiong Jing Nan battle for ONE Championship supremacy

This rivalry for the ONE Championship atomweight and strawweight belts between champions Angela Lee and Xiong Jing Nan is as intense as it is grand.

Their first fight took place at strawweight, with Xiong defending her championship against the atomweight champion Lee. The second one took place at atomweight, where Lee defended her turf against the invading Xiong.

The pair of fights between 'Unstoppable' and 'The Panda' feature some of the most high-level MMA you'll ever see. Both were at the top of the food chain for their respective ONE Championship weight classes.

The two are like mirror images of each other, style-wise. Lee is an excellent grappler while Xiong is a brutish striker. Watch ONE's recap of their rivalry here:

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Though there wasn't real bad blood between the two, this rivalry between Lee and Xiong was mostly fueled by their quest for greatness. Both were vying for a place in ONE Championship history by becoming the organization's first female double champ.

The greatness of the first fight and the stunning rematch deepened the rivalry even more. A third fight isn't on the horizon yet, but here's to hoping that it happens in 2022.


#3. Rodtang Jitmuangnon's Muay Thai wars against Jonathan Haggerty

If one looks at the way Rodtang fights, they would assume his opponents stole his lunch money.

The famed Muay Thai wrecking ball is intensity personified. It raised some eyebrows when then-champion Johnathan 'The General' Haggerty, after winning the belt, called out Rodtang as his next opponent. People thought it was bold for him to call out such a dangerous ONE Championship fighter.

In hindsight, the matchup was perfect. A tall, lanky technician with his clinical precision versus a short stocky brawler with his aggression and pressure. The first fight had a pace that can cause a heart attack just by watching it. The two threw everything they had at one another. Rodtang took the tightly contested fight via unanimous decision.

In the rematch, Rodtang did what he does best: pressure, pressure, pressure. Rodtang stalked Haggerty all throughout, while eating everything 'The General' threw at him. The ONE Championship king closed the show in the third round, knocking down Haggerty three times to earn the TKO victory.

Though the rivalry is at 2-0, both fighters are still in their early 20's and arguably still reaching their athletic prime. Fans might see these two go to war again in the ONE Championship Circle in the near future.

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#2. The brewing rivalry between ONE Championship bantamweight king Bibiano Fernandes and John Lineker

ONE Championship's most dominant champion Bibiano 'The Flash' Fernandes has always been the cool-headed type of fighter. It wasn't until he met John 'Hands of Stone' Lineker that the Brazilian showed his angrier side.

Lineker is now set to face Fernandes for his ONE Championship bantamweight strap, with the intensity reaching a fever pitch.

The rivalry may be in its infancy at the moment, but the level of animosity between the two merits them to be on this list. It has the makings of a true MMA rivalry that can produce great moments in and out of the cage.

The champion came out shooting verbal attacks at Lineker while the challenger didn't back down. The ONE Championship king recently spoke to the South China Morning Post about his opponent:

"F*ck John Lineker. If you want to fight me, you want to get the belt, come, let’s do this but in a good way. That’s the way we do it, like if we fight in the street, no problem."

Watch the interview here:

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Just like that, the MMA world is now at the edge of its seat waiting for these two to finally clash. The bad blood is real and this might be the first true grudge match in ONE Championship history.


#1. Bibiano Fernandes and Kevin Belingon produce the greatest rivalry in ONE championship history

Bibiano 'The Flash' Fernandes' dominance over his weight class is spotless except for his wars against Kevin 'The Silencer' Belingon.

The Filipino striker was the only one to solve the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard's grappling puzzle and nullify his game. Together, the two had a rivalry for the ages as they faced each other an unprecedented four times.

The first two bouts were split 1-1 with the third dance ending in controversy. In the rubber match, Bibiano won via disqualification as his Filipino foe accidentally hit him with elbows in the back of the head. Though the foul was indeed accidental, the ending stirred some bad blood between the two.

In their fourth fight, Fernandes put a definitive end to their rivalry. Belingon was aggressive as always, but Bibiano adjusted his MMA game and successfully melded his striking with his grappling.

The Brazilian choked his opponent out in the second round, closing out the greatest rivalry in ONE Championship history.

Edited by Josh Evanoff
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