Soo Chul Kim vs Leonardo Issa in their first meeting in 2011.
ONE FC will debut title belts in three weight classes later this month, including in bantamweight, where a rematch between Leonardo Issa and Soo Chul Kim will crown the first 135-pound kingpin in ONE FC. In the lightweight division, submission ace Zorobabel Moreira will face Japanese kickboxer Kotetsu Boku. Moreira is one of ONE FC's fastest rising stars and has won all his fights under the ONE FC banner while Shooto fighter Boku will be making his ONE FC debut.
However, since the announcement, ONE FC has been met with criticism for their matchmaking, with fans unhappy that former Dream bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes is on the roster, yet he is not involved in the bantamweight title bout. Fans are also questioning the rationale behind giving Boku a title fight in his promotional debut.
ONE FC has revealed exclusively to B/R journalist Gerald Ng the rationale on how the two title fights came to be.
ONE FC disclosed that Fernandes was offered the fight for the title but informed ONE FC matchmakers he wanted to take a six-month break to be with his newborn child. He said he was willing to sacrifice the title shot and was hence removed from the fight.
The Philippines' Kevin Belignon, who was on a 9-1 run, was next considered for the title bout provided he could emerge victorious in his scheduled fight against 20-year-old Korean Soo Chul Kim at ONE FC: Pride of a Nation in Manila. It was Soo who controlled the entire bout and earned a unanimous decision victory. On the basis of his resounding victory over Belignon, Soo was awarded the title despite a pedestrian 6-4 record.
Soo and Issa faced each other a year ago, with Issa defeating Soo by unanimous decision. Soo has a chance for redemption in this rematch after defeating the aforementioned Belignon and Japanese fighter Shoko Sato and losing to Jae Hoon Moon since their last fight. Issa has won seven in a row, with his last loss coming in February of 2008.
Belignon has pledged to bounce back by winning the eight-men bantamweight Grand Prix, which will debut later this year. Two quarterfinal bouts have been announced: Former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver will face China's Zhao Ya Fei and Korean slugger Min Jung Song will battle ex-Bellator fighter Masakatsu Ueda.
As for the Lightweight title, two of ONE FC's lightweight contenders had to withdraw for differing reasons. Eduard Folayang was first in line to face Moreira but had to decline the title bout due to his commitments with his parent promotion, The Philippines' URCC. ONE FC then offered the title to renowned kickboxer Ole Laursen, and he accepted the fight but it was nixed by his management who opposed the championship clause that would have been inserted into his contract had he accepted the fight. He is still under contract with ONE FC.
All information courtesy of the media team at ONE FC.