ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) returns to Manila on Friday, May 31, 2013 with a card at the 20,000 capacity SM Mall of Asia Arena which will be headlined by Honorio Banario's first defense of his featherweight title, against Koji Oishi, and will also feature Bibiano Fernandes fighting Koetsu Okazaki for the interim bantamweight belt.
Banario (8-1) won the belt by beating Eric Kelly in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year and is also the URCC Lightweight Champion. His opponent will be making his ONE FC debut but Oishi (21-9-10) is a seasoned veteran who is a former Lightweight King of Pancrase and has only lost once in his last 12 fights.
Reigning bantamweight champion Soo Chul Kim is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and so ONE FC is making an interim version of the belt available. Fernandes has already won the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix, DREAM Featherweight Title and DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix and is also the reigning DREAM Bantamweight Champion so adding the ONE FC belt to his collection would make him the most decorated 135-pound fighter in the history of the sport.
The Brazilian will be taking on Japan's Koetsu Okazaki (8-2-1) who will be making his promotional debut but is a former Shooto world champion. Whoever wins on May 31st is likely to make their first title defense against the winner of the ONE FC Grand Prix Final, which is also set to be contested on May 31st between Masakatsu Ueda and Kevin Belingon.
That fight has not been confirmed by promotional officials, neither has a lightweight match up between Eduard Folayang (11-3) and Kamal Shalorus (7-3) or a welterweight clash between Phil Baroni (15-16) and Nobutatsu Suzuki (9-1-2) but all these matchups are expected to take place on what is already fixing up to be a stacked fight card.
UFC has been talking about holding a card in the Philippines since 2008, and recently organized a free public workout by Mark Munoz, but ONE FC: 'Rise to Power' will be the second card Asia's biggest MMA promotion has held in Manila as well as the second successive show to be screened live by Star Sports.
Many feel that ONE FC has already emerged as the most credible global challenger to the UFC and CEO / Owner Victor Cui had this to say about his promotion's latest announcement.
"ONE FC will be back in the fight capital of Asia on May 31 with a stacked fight card that is sure to get the adrenaline pumping for the passionate Filipino fight fans. This event could possibly be the largest in ONE FC’s history and features the top names in MMA, headlined by ONE FC Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario. Of course, having one of the greatest fighters on earth fighting on this card in Manila is sure to be a special night for MMA. Bibiano Fernandes always brings his best when he steps into the cage. Close to 20,000 fans will pack out the SM Mall of Asia Arena to witness the greatest sporting spectacle in the world."
There are sure to be more Filipino fighters on the card with Rey Docyogen, Geje Eustaquio, Eric Kelly and Rene Catalan all in contention and more announcements are expected.