Bibiano Fernandes has dominated ONE Championship’s bantamweight division since his arrival in the Asian promotion in 2013, and he said that he’s looking forward to defending his belt once again once the promotion gets back to hosting shows again.

ONE’s event schedule has been put on hiatus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the Vancouver-based Brazilian said he’s ready to take a call to compete when ONE gets back up and running again. He’s just asked that he’s given as much notice as possible.

“For being right, right, right, right weeks before the fight,” Fernandes (24-4) told MMA Junkie. “Every athlete, to make the body strong… for sure, (you need) eight weeks (to prepare). But if you really have to go, that’s a different situation. You have to think about the best way to go. But the right thing is 100% eight weeks before you go and compete, especially if you’re going to fight for the belt. You have to make sure your mind is good, make sure your body’s good, make sure you adjust to everything. But if they say, ‘OK, let’s go! You have to do it right now!’ OK, but the normal, right thing to do is seven, eight weeks. That’s perfect.”

The name that has become consistently attached to Fernandes during the latter stages of his ONE career is that of Kevin Belingon. The Filipino wushu striker is the only man to have defeated Fernandes in ONE Championship, but the Brazilian avenged that loss with back-to-back wins in his last two outings. Remarkably, the pair have now faced each other four times in ONE Championship, with Fernandes winning three of them.

Following the release of ONE’s newly-introduced rankings, Belingon has once again been installed as the No. 1 contender for Fernandes’s title. But, after fighting him four times already, Fernandes says his Filipino rival needs to go and knock over a few of his fellow contenders before he will accept a fifth fight with “The Silencer.”

“OK, if you want to see Bibiano-Kevin one more time, he has to at least go and fight against two or three more fighters out there, then come back for me,” he stated. “But fight me again (next)? I don’t think so. He’ll have to go fight two or three more times, and come back. If I’m still champion, for sure… no problem.”

Another possible fight that has intrigued some fans is a matchup between Fernandes and his longtime teammate and training partner Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” captured the ONE flyweight grand prix crown last year, and is set to challenge Fernandes’ compatriot Adriano Moraes for the ONE flyweight title later this year. A matchup between two of the most dominant champions in MMA, who are just one weight class apart, could make for a fascinating contest, but Fernandes admitted that possibility is a slim one, due to the longstanding friendship between the pair.

“For me, I prefer not to fight with my friends,” he explained. “Because your friend is your friend, and you go fight your friend and later you can change everything. I don’t think so. But it’s between ONE and DJ. I’m a very respectful guy, and I like DJ. But from my side, friendship is more important.”

After playing down the possibility of facing Belingon next, it means Fernandes may find himself facing a fresh challenge, with former Shooto bantamweight champion Shoko Sato and Dagestan’s Yusup Saadulaev in prime position to get the next title shot.

Fernandes says whoever he’s facing next, he’ll be looking to score another finish to continue his grip on ONE’s bantamweight division.

“When I’m competing inside the cage, always I want to give my best and push my best, so when I leave there I (know I) did my best, you know what I mean?” he said. “When I’m inside the cage, I want to finish the guy, or knockout. They’re the two things in my mind. I will knock out this guy, or I will try to finish this guy. That’s it. I don’t think about winning by decision. That’s my mentality. The next time I fight, I won’t change nothing, I will push myself and that’s how I do it.”

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