John Lineker (35-9) has no plans to play it safe now that he's the ONE bantamweight world champion.
The Brazilian promises business as usual when he defends his crown for the first time against Fabricio Andrade (8-2) at ONE on Prime Video 3 on October 21 – and that means going after the challenger from the opening bell.
"Hands of Stone" values his reputation as a crowd-pleaser, so there will be no changes to his aggressive game plan for this main event showdown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Above all, he wants to entertain fans at the Axiata Arena, along with all the viewers watching live in North American primetime.
"I won't hold back because now I'm the champion," Lineker explained. "I'm going to get in the circle, and I'm going to do what I know how to do best, which is to put on a show and go forward all the time.
"Of course the belt is important, it was a very important achievement in my career, but my goal is always to get in there, have a fun fight, and put on a great show."
Lineker will have a willing partner in Andrade, a fellow Brazilian knockout artist who does his best work in the standup thanks to his extensive muay Thai and kickboxing background.
Though the rangier "Wonder Boy" likes to use his movement and timing to break down rivals, he's not afraid to work on the inside when needed.
Those well-rounded tools demand respect from any opponent, and Lineker is no different. Still, the defending world champion thinks his own knockout power will make the difference when they come to blows.
"Hands of Stone" said:
"(Andrade's) muay Thai is excellent, he's a great fighter, but I have boxing that scares opponents, especially because of the [power in] my hands. So, which one is better, I don't know. I don't like to keep comparing, but I believe in my potential. I know I'm good at what I do.
"This fight will definitely have a lot of striking, and it will be very exciting. He's going to want to kick me a lot, come in with his knee, but I'm prepared for anything, both striking and on the ground. I see myself finishing him off in the third round."
Lineker unfazed by Andrade's trash talk
Andrade has been vocal ahead of his clash with Lineker, calling the ONE bantamweight world champion a "chicken" and suggesting that his countryman is scared of this matchup.
For his part, "Hands of Stone" refuses to be distracted by the chatter. In fact, he insists it will only make things worse for the challenger when they go toe-to-toe.
"None of that bothers me," the 32-year-old said. "I take it all in my stride. I think talking is nonsense, we have to resolve it inside the circle.
"In fact, any opponent who talks nonsense about me only motivates me. I'm more motivated to get into the circle and do my best. So, opponents who do this kind of trash talk end up regretting it later, because instead of irritating me, they are motivating me even more.
"I'm going to show him that you don't win by talking, but by showing what you're good at inside the circle."
Andrade earned this chance to compete for the belt with a seven-fight winning streak and a perfect 5-0 slate in ONE Championship – which includes three consecutive knockouts.
Given that incredible run of form, "Wonder Boy" has stated that he expects to knock out Lineker and claim the World Title.
However, "Hands of Stone" has never been stopped by strikes in 44 professional bouts and believes this is just empty talk from the 24-year-old upstart.
"I think that will be a very difficult thing for him to achieve," Lineker added. "He won't knock me out in any round. I’m a very tough fighter. It’s not enough for my opponent to beat me. He has to kill me if he wants to beat me.
"So, I warn him to forget about it because he won't knock me out in any round. He'll just keep it in his imagination because it sure as hell won't happen in real life."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.