A potentially incredible moment for John "Hands of Stone" Lineker (35-9) ended in disaster last weekend.
The Brazilian slugger was due to defend his ONE bantamweight world title in the main event of ONE on Prime Video 3, but he was stripped of the belt for missing weight ahead of his battle with Fabricio "Wonder Boy Andrade (8-2).
"Hands of Stone" still faced off with Andrade in Malaysia, but he left their matchup worse for wear.
The challenger – who was still eligible to claim the belt – appeared to gain the upper hand with fierce striking that left plenty of damage on Lineker's face. Then in the third round, "Wonder Boy" connected with an unintentional low blow that resulted in a no contest and left the former divisional king writhing in pain.
After a difficult series of events, Lineker first reflected on missing weight:
"I was weighing in on the scale I had in the room, but the scale tricked me," he said. "I got the weight off just right because I don't suffer to make it in ONE – their weigh-in method is excellent. I thought I was underweight and went calmly to weigh in on the official scale. But when I got on the official scale, I was 200 grams (0.44 pounds) over.
"Losing the title for a silly thing, for a miscalculation I made at the weigh-ins, made me very upset. I wasn't suffering to lose weight, it wasn't a lack of professionalism or a lack of training. This shook me up a lot."
Lineker admits that getting his belt taken away was a huge psychological blow – one that rocked him mentally ahead of the massive clash with "Wonder Boy."
"Hands of Stone" knew he needed to be on point against his surging compatriot, but he wasn't at his best after everything that had happened.
The 32-year-old said:
"I tried to stay strong and focused to get into the fight well, but I wasn't 100 percent. But that's no excuse. It was a tough fight. Fabricio is an excellent fighter, but I was very upset about what happened.
"I didn't go in 100 percent, but I did what needed to be done in the fight. Unfortunately, the result was not what I expected."
Lineker: The pain was unbearable, but the belt is mine
Although Lineker had his moments in the exciting contest against Andrade, his younger opponent was on fire. In fact, Andrade was a rare competitor who actually hurt "Hands of Stone" in the striking exchanges.
In the third round, the 25-year-old rising star took the wind out of Lineker's sails with a thudding knee to the body.
However, the follow-up knee went low and forced an unfortunate end to the fight. While Andrade later claimed his rival took the easy way out, Lineker sees things differently.
"(Andrade) hurt me with knees, but I breathed deeply and managed to absorb the hard blow," Lineker said. "I was hoping to get out of range and put him down, but he came in with another knee that caught my groin. It hurt a lot, I felt so much pain that I couldn't get back into the fight.
"The pain was unbearable. I thought it would never stop hurting. In addition to the pain, I couldn't breathe properly. I was quite scared. My cup broke. It wasn't just the impact, the blow went through the cup. It took all my strength and my momentum."
Lineker revealed that he's still in some discomfort due to the illegal strike, but that he doesn't anticipate any lasting damage.
With that in mind, "Hands of Stone" wants to get back to full health, put things to bed with Andrade, and regain the ONE bantamweight world title that he believes is still rightfully his.
The former divisional king added:
"I believe there will be a second fight. The audience wants to see that fight again. It was a very exciting fight, a war, and the audience likes that style of fighting. I want to face him again soon, but first I need to recover. My face is a little crumpled now. But let's see a date to have this new fight against him.
"I really want to get this belt back. I didn't lose the title to an opponent, but to the scales. This belt is actually mine. I remain the champion. I can't wait to fight for the belt again."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.