Bibiano Fernandes, ONE Championship's reigning bantamweight champion, is just a few days away from defending his belt against John Lineker at ONE: Bad Blood on February 11.
The pre-fight hype has been nothing short of spectacular and for good reason. Fernandes is stepping back into the Circle for the first time in more than two years and his fellow Brazilian brawler is just aching to finally get his title shot.
Likewise, the champion has not been shy about wanting to defend his divisional rule for a handful of reasons, including the fact that he finally doesn't have to fight Kevin Belingon again.
When asked about this during an interview with SCMP MMA, Fernandes' eyes lit up and expressed his joy about fighting someone other than the Team Lakay stalwart for once, saying:
"Oh my God. Fighting John Lineker is the best thing happening for me, because ONE Championship pushed Kevin so hard to fight me and finally now, I will fight somebody new and I have to adjust to a new style. Fighting with John Lineker is good because, [if you] watch the way I fought with Kevin, I have to chase that guy for 25 minutes. With John Lineker, I don't have to do that."
Watch Bibiano Fernandes' interview with SCMP MMA below:
In an uncommon sequence of events, Fernandes fought Belingon three straight times from 2018 to 2019 to bring his career head-to-head match count with him to four.
The Filipino fighter handed Fernandes his first loss in eight years and took the bantamweight belt away from him in a razor-thin split decision. Their trilogy bout was then somewhat marred by Belingon's disqualification after illegal strikes to the back of the head.
Thus, the immediate rematch and their fourth overall fight was immediately set. There, Fernandes decisively finished off Belingon with a second-round rear-naked choke to seal his second straight title defense.
ONE Championship moves Fernandes-Lineker bout earlier than ONE: X
A title fight of the caliber of Bibiano Fernandes and John Lineker deserves a spot in the ONE: X 10th year anniversary super-card. However, ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong felt differently.
He knew that this fight had to happen earlier, as he told Ariel Helwani:
"We got Bibiano a fight right away rather than have him wait, right? Let's just get it on."
Watch Chatri Sityodtong's interview on The MMA Hour below:
Fernandes and Lineker's war of words in ONE Championship has gone on for quite some time. Their rivalry will finally come to a head this weekend. Tune in to ONE: Bad Blood on Friday, February 11 to see who will emerge victorious.