REECE McLaren seeks to prove there’s a Filipino in him as he challenges Bibiano Fernandes for his ONE bantamweight belt in Age of Domination on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Born and raised in Australia, the 25-year-old fighter claims his father is Filipino as he looks to gain the cheers of the crowd in the co-main event of the card featuring another title fight pitting heavyweight champion Brandon Vera and Japanese Hideki Sekine.
“But I’ve never had the pleasure to meet him (father), so it’s just the way life is,” McLaren admitted. “My parents went both ways.”
“But coming back here definitely feels like it’s back at home, so if the crowd gets behind me, I’d love that,” he added as his last fight was also at MOA Arena where he beat Tajikistani Muin Gafurov in a unanimous decision last April.
The result earned him a title shot against longtime champion Fernandes, a Brazil native who also calls the Philippines his home, having fought four times already in the country.
“(McLaren) says he’s Filipino, but he’s from Australia? I don’t understand,” Fernandes said. “I love Filipino people and my best friend is Filipino. I fight for you guys.”
McLaren has been on a roll, having won his last four fights to improve his MMA record to nine wins and three loses, but he comes in as an underdog against the 36-year-old Fernandes, who has been unbeaten in his last 11 fights.
Fernandes looks to make it two in a row against another fighter with Filipino blood after forcing Kevin Belingon to submit in their title bout last January.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s good…but I came here to do my job,” Fernandes said of McLaren. “I’m not worried.”