One of the biggest Asian MMA stories of 2019 was Kevin Belingon beating Bibiano Fernandes to become only the third fighter to ever hold the ONE Championship bantamweight title. The Filipino is known as ‘The Silencer’ for a good reason; he doesn’t usually have too much to say for himself.
But after Fernandes told the media he is contractually guaranteed a rematch Belingon decided to respond,
“I have no problem fighting Fernandes again if that’s how it’s going to be. We are tied at one win apiece, so a third bout to determine the true winner makes sense.”
Fernandes would probably point out that his win was much more emphatic. The Brazilian submitted Belingon in 2016 and was only beaten by split decision at ONE: ‘Heart of the Lion’, with plenty of people believing the former champion had done enough to retain his crown.
A point to prove
Unsurprisingly Belingon sees the fight somewhat differently but says the manner of victory means he still has a point to prove,
“I really poured everything I had into that one, and my team and I came up with a brilliant game plan. I think that was the key to victory. He is clamoring for a rematch. I know he thinks he won the last one so deep inside I want to prove to him again that I beat him.”
There are several Japanese contenders in the division including Daichi Takenaka, Akihiro Fujisawa and Shuya Kamikubo while ONE Warrior Series alumni Mark Abelardo will be one bantamweight to keep an eye on. Belingon knows that some serious challenges await,
“I know keeping the title is going to be harder than getting it. You have to be at your peak condition always, and every guy you face next is going to be the biggest test.”
Third fight inevitable
Whether any of the other contenders in the division get a chance to challenge Belingon could depend on the small print in Fernandes’ contract. Regardless of whether the rematch clause exists or not the Filipino is certain their paths will cross,
“I know at some point I’ll have to face Bibiano again. It was an exciting match, so we can do it again.”
For the time being the 31 year old is just happy to be able to call himself a ONE Championship champion. He was honoured with a parade in Baguio, alongside four of his Team Lakay training partners, and is basking in the accolades that come from beating one of the best bantamweights in Asian MMA history.
“It really felt like a dream to me. We had worked so hard to reach that point. It didn’t sink in at first, but when it did I felt accomplished.”