Imagine growing up in the Midwestern United States, finishing up school as a late teenager and deciding to move to Australia to pursue an athletic career, even though you basically knew nobody in Australia and didn’t have a set team or coach to train with. What would your friends say? What would your parents say? Would the people around you support your decision or would they think you’ve lost your mind?
Brazilian mixed martial artist Fabricio Andrade never asked himself those questions. Frankly, he didn’t really care what other people thought when he decided to move from his home in Fortaleza, Brazil to China when he was a teenager. He just knew that’s where his destiny would take him.
“I started to train when I was 13,” Andrade told Combat Press. “At the time, I was very young. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I knew 100-percent it was not study, because I didn’t like to study at all. I was just trying different sports, and, eventually, I went to see a Muay Thai training, and I got very interested to learn – just to have the feeling that I know how to fight. I started from there, and I started to really like it. I had the desire to start to compete, and after I started to compete, a guy came to me and said I can have a future [fighting]. I started to get more motivated, and it just kept going.”
Andrade, who grew up with his parents and two sisters, started training at a small Muay Thai gym, but eventually ended up training with UFC veteran Hermes Franca, who acted as mentor as he contemplated a fighting career.
“He gave me a lot of advice, and the time to just think about the future and getting me motivated,” said Andrade. “He put me in contact with some people at the time. It was from that that I had the opportunity to go to China.”
When Andrade was only 19 years old, he decided he was going to move to the opposite side of the world to pursue a fighting career. It was an easy decision for him, but, for his family, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“My mother was like really worried,” said the 25-year-old. “She thought I would get killed or something, you know? Because, China is on the other side of the world, and she could not do anything. So, she was really, really worried, and she didn’t want me to go. But, I have always been really like, when I say I’m going to do something, nobody could stop me. I didn’t even ask about anybody’s opinion. I just said, ‘I’m going to China,’ and that was it.”
It’s hard to explain what it takes for a teenager, whose family did not have a lot of money, to muster up the courage and the cash to make such and monumental and expensive move at such a young age. In Andrade’s case, the kid had both the will and the proverbial brass balls.
“I worked in a lot of different jobs since I was really young,” explained Andrade. “My family didn’t have money at all, so they couldn’t pay for me to train. I worked in deliveries, stocked in the pharmacy, I worked as a garcon in restaurants, and I worked multiple jobs trying to get some money to pay for my training and to buy gear and stuff. I tried to keep working, even when I was training, and I was able to save some money.
“I remember when I went to China, I had just enough money to buy the ticket. I remember the only money I had was about like 100 dollars, and that was it. I came to China, and I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t speak English at all. I just had my ticket to go there and try to make things happen. I remember before I left for the airport, my mom came, and she gave me like 100 reals, which is like 20 dollars, just trying to help with something, because she was so worried about what would happen. When I got to China, I went to Google Translate, and I showed the message to the manager that said, ‘I need to fight, because I don’t have money.’”
Andrade initially landed in the small city of Dujiangyan in the Chengdu province. That was his first foray into an Asian martial arts gym.
“I was training with a lot of Chinese fighters, and, at the time, I was just fighting kickboxing,” said the Brazilian. “It was a really good opportunity to just train with different styles and learn from different people. I stayed about five months in Dujiangyan, and then I went to Hong Kong, and I trained with Rodrigo Caporal and his father for like one year. I was just training a lot of jiu-jitsu there and teaching a little, bit trying to get some money. Because Hong Kong was quite expensive. I just started teaching and winning fights here and there to save some money. Then, when I had some money saved, I made the move to come to Thailand.”
By the time he was 21 years old, Andrade had made the move to Thailand’s Tiger Muay Thai, which is a hotbed for all types of martial arts. The huge camp has many residents and many passers-through, and they offer training in MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and wrestling. Andrade took to the camp like a duck to water.
“In Thailand, we have a lot of people come and go all the time,” said Andrade. “I think that’s one of the reasons that I like to stay here. I’ve been living here for about five years now, and I’ve been training with so many different people – so many big names from different promotions. I made a lot of friends in the time that I’ve lived here.”
Andrade’s pro MMA career began in Brazil about a month before his 15th birthday. After moving to China, he had a couple fights there, before moving to Thailand. In 2020, with only a 3-2 pro record, he was picked up by ONE Championship and made his promotional debut in July of that year, submitting Mark Abelardo in the second round. In just two years, he now holds a record of 5-0 in ONE, and his last win was a liver-kick knockout of Kwon Won Il only one minute into the first-round of their bantamweight contender fight.
“I knew he was a good striker, but we’re not on the same level,” said Andrade. “I didn’t want to get the fight, like, I wanted to jump straight to the title shot at the time. But he started to call out for the title fight, so I was like, ‘oh, I’m going to have to smoke this guy.’ I knew he could not take my power. I didn’t know I was going to drop him with the body kick, but I knew I was going to finish him fast.”
Andrade now sits at 8-2 as a pro, is still super young, and is already next in line for the ONE bantamweight title. He attributes his success to his dedication to his craft.
“I think it’s because of the desire that I have to be the best,” said Andrade. “That drives me every single day to do everything as best as I can. When I wake up, the first thing I think about is my training. There are no lazy days for me. Every day, I go to the gym, and I train what I have to do. Every training, I push myself to the limit, always trying to be better than everyone. Out of training, I’m also very disciplined with my diet, and I train my mentality to be strong as well. So, everything I do is about being the best version of myself. And then, when I get fight night, I know I did everything that I could do, I’ll be 100-percent. That has been showing in my performances inside the cage.”
The ONE bantamweight division had a bit of a shake-up earlier this year. Long-reigning Brazilian champ Bibiano Fernandes, first won the interim strap in May 2013. He became the undisputed champ a year later, lost it in a close split decision to Kevin Belingon in Nov. 2018, and won it back four months later with a third-round stoppage of Belingon. He had a rubber match with Belingon in Oct. 2019, finished his opponent with a second-round submission and did not fight again until earlier this year.
In Mar. 2022, Fernandes faced longtime UFC veteran John “Hands of Stone” Lineker after they were supposed to meet on two previous occasions, both of which got scrapped due to COVID-related reasons. Lineker and the UFC parted ways in 2019, and he had since gone on a three-fight winning streak in ONE, setting up the title bout. At ONE Championship: Lights Out, it took Lineker three minutes and 40 seconds of Round 2 to put Fernandes’ lights out with a left hook, crowning him the new champ. This was the best-case scenario for Andrade, who has had his sights on Lineker for years.
“After my first fight in ONE, when I defeated Abelardo, he was the first guy that I called out,” Andrade explained. “I knew he was the toughest fighter in this division in ONE Championship, besides, like, Bibiano. I already knew he was the toughest bantamweight in ONE. I’m always trying to beat the best, you know, and, if you want to be the best, you got to beat the best as well. He was already a fighter that I expected to fight, and I called him out multiple times, because I really wanted the fight. In the end, things turned out well, and I’m happy he got to be world champion. To that point, he had never been world champion, but, now, it makes the fight even more entertaining.”
Tomorrow night, at ONE on Prime Video 3, live from Kuala Lumpur, Andrade will finally get his shot at glory, when he faces Lineker in the main event. While seven years apart in age, and a lifetime’s worth of an experience gap, the two Brazilians will finally meet. The fight has fireworks written all over it.
Andrade has four knockout wins and two submissions in his eight wins, and he has only been stopped once. Lineker, on the other hand, has 17 knockouts and four submissions on the winning side. On the losing side, he has lost three by submission, six by decision and has never been knocked out in 44 career fights. There is very little chance this fight goes the distance.
“I think he’s a very predictable opponent,” said the challenger. “He’s not surprising when his game is to always come throwing hands, and that’s it. My style doesn’t match with him. If he does what he’s used to doing, I believe he’s got no other chance. I’m going to knock him out.”
Earning the title would be a huge milestone for Andrade, who came from nothing and made a career for himself on the other side of the world. However, although a big one, the ONE bantamweight title is not the end goal. He’s only in his mid-twenties and has a lot of road ahead of him.
“It’s been my main goal,” said Andrade. “To this point, I’ve been doing a lot of things, but I haven’t been world champion in kickboxing, Muay Thai or MMA. That’s going to be the start for me – being world champion – and to take a guy with the name that Lineker has is also going to be very good for my career. People will finally recognize the level that I am.”
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