ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes has stayed at the top of his profession through years of hard work, dedication and another key quality in martial artists – respect.
It is something that has been instilled in him from a young age when, aged 7, he was sent by his father from the city of Manaus to live with his aunt in the Amazon rainforest.
“I’ve always known to respect people,” he says.
“I think that is because I saw a lot of bad things when I went into the jungle, so when I came back to the city, I realised the respect for life. I had to keep evolving so I could be better.
“To be better in life, you have to give up a lot, and you have to be humble and respect people.”
Living on a small farm, Fernandes had no option but to keep his feet on the ground and stay humble. Those formative years helped shape the man he is today.
“It’s a simple life, so I would have to help people, and I brought that into the big society. I think that’s helped me, too,” he explains.
“When I lived with my aunt, we shared everything. Until now, we share things with people.
“For example, today I drink expensive coffee, but I will give half to my friend because he likes it, and that’s sharing.”
Fernandes’s respect extended to his martial arts training, too.
He quickly realised there was also a culture of respect in the gym, and his experiences with his aunt proved valuable in his early days as a martial artist.
He also learned so much more on the mats.
“The jungle was the beginning,” he explains.
“Mixed martial arts gave me discipline because you need to have discipline with mixed martial arts, as well as confidence and courage. That’s what mixed martial arts gave me – the never-give-up attitude.
“My jiu-jitsu coach would always say, ‘You can be better.’ That is one thing I will always remember. I would ask my coach how I looked, and he would say, ‘You can always be better.’”
With the words of his coach ringing in his ears, Fernandes embarked on an incredible career that continues to this day. He captured a host of titles before joining ONE Championship and becoming the most dominant World Champion in the organisation’s history.
An inspirational figure to youngsters and experienced athletes alike, Fernandes says he is just being himself and does not see himself as a role model.
“I don’t want to be a role model. I don’t want to be anybody. I just want to be Bibiano Fernandes. That’s me, that’s who I am,” he says.
“I always feel that I have to be my best, and I always have to improve. That is the reason and what keeps me driven. Not for anybody else, but for me.”
With that attitude of humility and respect, Fernandes heads into ONE: HEART OF THE LION in Singapore on 9 November looking to continue his remarkable reign as ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
He takes on ONE Interim Bantamweight Champion Kevin Belingon in a hotly-anticipated rematch that will unify the division’s belts.