Feel­ing blessed

Af­ter tough up­bring­ing in Brazil, MMA cham­pion happy to call Canada home

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY NEIL DAVIDSON

Talk to Bib­iano (The Flash) Fer­nan­des and you’ll hear the word blessed a lot.

Blessed to live in Canada. Blessed to have earned Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship. Blessed to be a mixed mar­tial artist.

Given his im­pov­er­ished up­bring­ing in Brazil, it’s un­der­stand­able.

His mother died when he was seven and he was sent from Manaus to live with his aunt in the Ama­zon jun­gle.

As a young teenager, he sur­vived by sell­ing ice cream on the streets and by clean­ing cars and houses. He of­ten opted for pay­ment in food rather than money.

He was 14 when a bene­fac­tor paid for some jiu-jitsu lessons at a neigh­bour­hood gym. Fer­nan­des took to it quickly, and when money for the lessons ran out, he started clean­ing the gym to pay his way.

Some 23 years later, Fer­nan­des is a dec­o­rated BJJ black belt and MMA cham­pion with a hunger to keep im­prov­ing.

“I be­lieve I can al­ways be bet­ter,” he said.

Fer­nan­des (20-3-0) looks to de­fend his One Cham­pi­onship ban­tamweight ti­tle for the sixth time on Satur­day when he faces Amer­i­can An­drew Leone (8-2-0) in the main event of “One: Kings & Con­querors” in Ma­cau.

Fer­nan­des has won 19 of his last 20 fights in­clud­ing 12 straight since los­ing a de­ci­sion to Hiroyuki Takaya on a K-1 card in Saitama, Ja­pan, on Dec. 31, 2010.

Leone is an Amer­i­can who has spent the last few years

train­ing and teach­ing in Thai­land and In­done­sia.

He and his older brother An­thony, also a fighter, cur­rently run a gym in Bali.

Leone has fought just three times in the last five years but has won all three un­der the One Cham­pi­onship ban­ner.

Fer­nan­des di­vides his train­ing between AMC Kick­box­ing & Pankra­tion in Kirk­land, Wash., and Revo­lu­tion Mar­tial Arts & Fit­ness in Lan­g­ley, B.C.

South of the bor­der, he works with renowned trainer Matt Hume and UFC fly­weight cham­pion Demetri­ous (Mighty Mouse) John­son.

In sub­ur­ban Lan­g­ley, his train­ing part­ners in­clude un­beaten UFC feath­er­weight Jeremy Kennedy.

Fer­nan­des is com­ing off a five-round split de­ci­sion win over Aus­tralian Reece McLaren in De­cem­ber in Manila. A bro­ken nose dur­ing the fight didn’t help his cause.

His bro­ken beak healed, Fer­nan­des says he is in tip-top shape for Leone.

Fer­nan­des, mar­ried with three sons, has lived in Canada for 11 years, be­com­ing a ci­ti­zen a year ago.

“I will rep­re­sent the coun­try very well,” he said.

Fer­nan­des has seen the world com­pet­ing for One Cham­pi­onship, an Asian pro­mo­tion. He has fought in China, Myanmar, the Philip­pines and Sin­ga­pore.

Ma­cau is new to him. “A lot of casi­nos ... A lot of lights. Like Ve­gas,” he said.

He won the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­terim 135-pound tile in May 2103 when he beat Ja­pan’s Koetsu Okazaki, then made the ban­tamweight ti­tle his own by de­feat­ing South Korea’s Soo Chul Kim that Oc­to­ber.

In De­cem­ber, he signed a new three-year deal with One Cham­pi­onship.

I have the best job,” he said.

CP PHOTO

Van­cou­ver-based ban­tamweight Bib­iano (The Flash) Fer­nan­des fights in an un­dated hand­out photo.

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