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ONE bantamweight MMA champion Bibiano Fernandes. Photos: ONE Championship

ONE Championship: Bibiano Fernandes pricing himself out of John Lineker fight, suggests Chatri Sityodtong

  • ‘If you’re not putting up viewership numbers you can’t command big dollars,’ ONE’s chairman and CEO says
  • Chatri says bantamweight champ ‘one of the greatest in history, but for some reason he doesn’t have a lot of fans’

Bibiano Fernandes’ financial demands are holding up the ONE Championship bantamweight champ’s return to action, according to Chatri Sityodtong.

ONE’s chairman and CEO said he was scheduled for talks last week with the disgruntled 41-year-old Brazilian (24-4), who has not fought in nearly two years after settling his rivalry with Kevin Belingon in Tokyo.

Former UFC star John Lineker has since carved himself out as the clear No 1 contender for his compatriot’s belt, with three wins since joining the Asian promotion.

“I do think that fight is gonna happen,” Chatri told the Post before ONE’s Empower card this month. “I have a call with Bibiano. [ONE vice-president] Matt Hume is trying to arrange that call, to see if we can come to an agreement. But I think the fans want to see Bibi versus Lineker, that will be a barnburner of a fight.”

Vancouver-based Fernandes, who trained for years at AMC Pankration in Seattle under head coach Hume, angrily claimed in June that ONE had been ignoring his calls, and that he had not even been offered a fight since submitting Filipino former champ Belingon on the ONE: Century card in October 2019.

“The Flash” has been one of the promotion’s longest-serving fighters, making his debut at its fifth event in 2012, before making a permanent switch from Japanese organisation Dream, where he was also champion, and rebuffing interest from the UFC.

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“These things happen though,” Chatri said. “I love Bibi, he’s a phenomenal guy. I first met him even before ONE – I was a cornerman for Shinya Aoki in Dream. We were on the bus together, we just began talking and hit it off.

“I love him as a person, but things have to make sense economically, and everything has to be win-win. He has to feel like he’s got the right deal and we have to feel the right way.

“But if you’re not putting up viewership numbers, you can’t command big dollars, or if you don’t have a large fan base, it’s just hard.”

John Lineker ahead of his fight against Kevin Belingon.
Fernandes and Lineker engaged in some social media back-and-forth this summer, with “Hands of Stone” claiming the champ is asking for an “absurd” amount of money to fight him.

“Bibi is a phenomenal athlete – his achievements in jiu jitsu, in Dream, in ONE are incredible,” Chatri added. “He’s definitely one of the greatest bantamweights in history, but for some reason he doesn’t have a lot of fans, and he doesn’t garner viewers.

“It might be because he’s a gentleman. I don’t know, right? These things are mysteries. Some people generate massive fandom and some don’t.

Bibiano Fernandes punches Kevin Belingon on the ground in Tokyo.

“Skill set matters, but the people who get paid the best … if you are the best in world and are able to drive numbers, if you’re popular with fans, you’re gonna get paid a lot.

“In some cases all you need to be is popular with fans – you don’t need to be good. I don’t want to say names. There are a lot of fighters out there who are good but not phenomenal, getting paid like they’re phenomenal.

“It’s a crazy time in combat sports.”