ONE FC has picked up the two of the most sought after free agents in the entire mixed martial arts (MMA) world and both will be making their debut in the Philippines on August 31st. Bibiano Fernandes and Shinya Aoki have signed exclusive contracts with the DREAM champions choosing to ply their trade with the most prestigious organization in Asia rather than Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Fernandes was even announced as being on the card at UFC 149 and had been expected to face Roland Delorme until it emerged that he had never signed a contract in the first place. In the end he elected to remain in Asia and sign with ONE FC instead and he will be fighting at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation' at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila in August.
Aoki will also be in action that night and ONE FC officials are expecting 16,500 people to pack into the venue made famous by the Thrilla' in Manila in 1975. The card is also rumoured to feature Renato Sobral, Rolles Gracie, Gregor Gracie, Igor Gracie, Ole Laursen, Phil Baroni, Roy Docyogen, Kevin Belingon, Eric Kelly, Honorio Banario and Eduard Folayang.
ONE FC is already established as the largest and most successful MMA promotion in Asia and the addition of these two top ten fighters to the roster is a serious statement of intent by CEO / Owner Victor Cui. There is no word on potential opponents for either but bantamweights who have already fought for ONE FC include Kevin Belingon, Masakazu Imanari and Leandro Issa while the lightweight roster is home to Folayang, Laursen, Arnaud Lepont and Roger Huerta.
It is worth noting that Aoki is a member of Evolve MMA where he trains alongside ONE FC lightweights Zorobabel Moreira and Eddie Ng which would rule out a match up involving either of these two. Although DREAM is apparently defunct Aoki still holds the lightweight strap while Fernandes is the Bantamweight Champion and Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion.
Fernandes is also a former DREAM Featherweight Champion and there is a possibility the Brazilian could compete at 145 lbs. He is one of the most decorated BJJ practitioners in the entire MMA world having won gold at the Pan American Games, BJJ World Championships and Brazilian Nationals.
Aoki has been the top Asian pound for pound fighter for the last five years although he saw a seven fight win streak snapped by Eddie Alvarez in his most recent outing. His decision to sign with ONE FC was not unexpected but it is the news that Fernandes decided to reject the UFC's offer in order to stay in Asia which will really send shockwaves through the MMA world.
After selling out the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur last weekend ONE FC is continuing to expand aggressively and increase its roster in preparation for putting on 18 shows across nine Asian cities in 2013. An event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is already booked for October 2nd with negotiations also believed to be underway for a show in another Asian city in December.
ONE FC's growth has been phenomenal and it is at the forefront of a rapidly expanding MMA scene in Asia which, for the first time since the demise of PRIDE, looks ready to rival that in the US.