|The author with Brazil's Bibiano Fernandes
One Fighting Champion’s chief executive officer Victor Cui has a story about Bibiano Fernandes (11-3).
During the Brazilian’s more youthful years (he’s now 32 years old), he would watch practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a studio near where he lived. Fernandes would be there everyday watching and watching and saying nothing. Until one day, the gym rats called him over. “Want to try it? C’mon.” Without any prior experience, Fernandes had everyone tapping out.
“If ever there’s a natural athlete, that’s Bibi,” said Cui like a proud father. “The weight of all the belts he’s won is heavier than his actual weight (134 pounds)."
Fernandes is making his One FC debut when he takes on Brazilian-born Australian Gustavo Falciroli in a dream card for Asia’s top MMA event on August 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
An hour and 30 minutes before the press conference, before the media horde piled into the Magellan Room of the Discovery Suites, Fernandes – true to form – sat in the back, observing everyone that came in.
“It’s a habit. Studying. Studying everything. You learn a lot by observing,” he said to me and I felt like a certain grasshopper.
I ask him about his youth in Brazil. “It was tough, man. But either you let the world consume you or you find a way to bend it to your goal. But I am determined. I wanted to make something of myself.”
The unorthodox 5-foot-7 Fernandes did make something of himself by becoming the first ever Dream featherweight and bantamweight champion. And prior to signing up with One FC, he was touted to be on the card of this week’s UFC 149 in Calgary, Canada.
When I touch on the topic of Brazilians being top mixed martial artists, Fernandes can’t help but beam with pride. I ask if it’s the water. He seemed puzzled for a moment then got it and laughed. “No. Not at all. Brazil is beautiful but it is a tough place. We have to work hard for what we have. What there is in Brazil is something everyone worked hard for. It’s a hard place that builds hard and talented people. It’s like the Philippines. You have a lot of world-class boxers from the Philippines…”
I follow that up whether he feels a tinge of fear when he enters the cage for a fight. “No. No fear. If you do then you don’t belong there. I lost my first two fights and I never stopped believing that I could be a champion. I lost again and I get up. That’s life. When you have nothing then you have nothing to lose. When there is fear there is doubt. You know you’re in a fight and you know you’re going to get hit. So no fear. Not in my language. I am happy where I am but I know there is plenty to accomplish.”
An hour later, someone from the media asked if he had any pre-fight words for Falciroli. “No. I say nothing,” he replied. “I don’t talk.” I ask him about that and he expounded, “Talk is cheap. I will just go out and do what I want to say.”