ONE bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes hasn’t fought since he settled his long-standing rivalry with Kevin Belingon back in October. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to tighten its grip on the world, it’s increasingly unclear when he will be able to fight again.
Ever the picture of composure, Fernandes is keeping his cool in the face of this uncertainty.
He’s doing what we should all be doing: staying indoors. When he’s not spending time with his wife and children, he’s been keeping his weapons sharp at his home gym. Even more importantly, he says, he’s been training his mind.
“I’m training, but the more important thing right now is not training my body but training my mind,” the Brazilian told BJPENN.com from his home in Vancouver. “I’m training my body, making sure my heart is pumping, I’m lifting lots of weights, but the more important thing is training the mind.
“You have to decide which direction you want to go,” Fernandes added. “You have to make a decision for yourself, your family and your friends, that’s it. You can go [toward] fear, being scared, doubting yourself — no. I have to hold myself back and say ‘everybody close to me is good, everybody is safe’, now we have to move [through this] together. We have to believe. We have to have faith, not fear.”
Fernandes is also using this crisis as an opportunity to teach his children some valuable lessons.
“The other day I was in the store, and my son came with me,” Fernandes recounted. “He said ‘Daddy get tissue, get more of this.’ I said ‘no, son, listen to me. We don’t take everything, son. Do you know why? Because there are still people who need food, medicine. Old people, mothers with kids. We will take what we need and help the community.'”
While Fernandes is currently taking each day as it comes, that doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about getting back in the cage. Having not fought since he defeated Belingon with a second-round rear-naked choke in the fall, he’s definitely getting the itch to compete.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Let’s see what happens, but I’m excited to go back and do what I love to do.
“I’m excited to give a good show for ONE Championship fans, for Chatri [Sityodtong] and Victor Cui, and for my fans. I want to make these guys happy.”
The ongoing pandemic has cast a veil of uncertainty over the entire sports industry, but Fernandes is hopeful that he’ll be able to fight again soon. He says he’s already been contacted by ONE officials about a fight on a June 5 card tentatively scheduled to go down in Jakarta, Indonesia. He says a “Japanese guy” was mentioned as an opponent — most likely streaking Japanese contender Shoko Sato — but isn’t sure who he’ll be defending his title against next.
“They’ve talked with me a little bit before this happened,” he said. “They wanted me to fight on June 5. I’m very excited for that to happen.
“You never know what will happen tomorrow, but this is the time for me training my mind right now, and making sure my body is healthy when I step back in for my camp. But for now we have to wait a little bit and see what happens.”
If Fernandes does end up fighting in June, it’s very possible the action could go down in an empty arena. Many promotions have been operating in this fashion to mitigate the spread of the virus. Fernandes has no issues in fighting without a crowd watching. In fact, he believes it could be beneficial, as he suspects fans have influenced the judges in some of his previous fights.
“I’m ok fighting for television,” he said. “If there are people there, great, but the last time I fought with Kevin, the people there, they wanted Kevin to win. The people affect the judges. The judges are not strong enough to handle the pressure of the crowd. The judges aren’t strong enough — I’m not joking — to focus on the fight. What happened in the fight with Kevin, so many people were going crazy. This affected the judges.
“So if I don’t fight with a crowd, it doesn’t bother me,” he added. “I want to fight for the people at home, too. That’s what I care about.”
For the moment, of course, these are all thoughts for another day. Right now, Bibiano Fernandes is focused on keeping his family and his community safe, and growing as a person in the process.
“We have to evolve,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like life is a test to see what kind of heart you have, what kind of mentality you have.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/24/2020.