March 27, 2023

Former ONE bantamweight world champion Kevin Belingon might again face his toughest rival, Bibiano Fernandes, for the world belt in the future.

But the 30-year-old Belingon must work his way up the rank of the title contender before facing the reigning champion for the fifth time, according to ONE Chief Executive Officer Chatri Sityodtong.

“First of all, I love Kevin and I love Bibiano. The bad blood they had was very, very real. From my understanding, the bad blood now isn’t as bad anymore,” said Sityodtong.

“But I think Kevin is going to have to win a few to earn his title shot back with Bibiano,” he added.

Belingon and Fernandes first met inside the circle in January 2016 where the Brazilian fighter easily defeated the latter with kimura in the very first round.

Challenged by that defeat, Belingon bounced back with six straight victories against formidable opponents including two-division world champion Martin Nguyen from October 2017 to July 2018 to earn a berth for the world belt.

Belingon faced Fernandes for the second time in November 2018 and he shocked the world by winning via split decision to become the undisputed ONE bantamweight king.

Intense rivalry was too obvious that Fernandes made his way back to top and faced Belingon for the third time in March 2019. Fernandes won after Belingon was disqualified due to illegal elbows to the back of the head.

The fourth encounter between the two fighters took place in October 2019 where Fernandes retained his belt via rear-naked choke in the second round.

Reports said Sityodtong believed there is a cause for a fifth contest but there is a greater challenge ahead, as the ONE Championship’s bantamweight division is deep with talent.

“Bibiano is an incredible champion, one of the best pound-for-pounds in the history of the entire sport. He’s just a completely dominant champion. But Kevin is also a dominant player. Kevin rightfully won the belt as well,” Sityodtong said. – Harley F. Palangchao