One of the most decorated jiu-jitsu athletes of all time has signed with One Championship.
Michelle Nicolini has just retired from BJJ competitions following the defeat in the finals of her division at Worlds. Her MMA shot comes at a critical time since a lot of jiu-jitsu player have been struggling with their transition into MMA and it’s been argued that MMA settings and the accent on stand up makes the whole adaptation much more smooth for wrestlers.
But Michelle Nicolini is quite determined to make it work so she will be joining reigning champion Roger Gracie in players representing jiu-jitsu at ONE championship. She now trains full time at Evolve MMA in Singapore.
Nicolini has a lot of accolades: she’s won Worlds 10 times, she also has 2 ADCC medals, one gold and another silver in addition to a large amount of other titles.
She will make her ONE Championship debut in Singapore on the 11th of November. She’s been training hard with all the World Champions at Evolve MMA.
Michele spoke to BJJEE.com about her new career:
After having competed and won for so many years, what did it feel like to compete at the Worlds for the last time?
I knew what I wanted to do. I was very sure about my decision to have the Worlds my last competition. Arriving at the pyramid for the last day of the competition was very sad for me but I was confident and at peace with my decision.
You have competed against all of the top women BJJ fighters over your career, who would you say was your hardest opponent?
So many of the girls I competed against were so tough. I think Luanna Alzuguir was one of the hardest opponents for me. She was always very strong and well prepared.
You have now moved to Singapore to train MMA full-time at Evolve MMA, what has the move been like? Both moving countries and moving into a new sport full-time?
I have moved out of my comfort zone in both situations, doing so isn’t always easy. Training is very tough and I’m learning and improving with the Evolve Fight Team. I am embracing this new challenge an enjoying it.
Evolve MMA is know to have World Champions in all the different martial arts disciplines. Who have you been working with on your striking?
Evolve’s Muay Thai team is amazing. All of the World Champions all try to help me a lot, very patiently. Most of the time I’ve been working with Kru Rong (Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke), Kru Bang (Muangfalek Kiatvichian), and Kru Aek (Penek Sitnumnoi).
Now that you are moving over to MMA, are you having to adapt and change you BJJ game to use in the cage?
I’ve had to adapt a lot. In BJJ I like to play on the bottom but in MMA I don’t. I’ve been working on take downs, the clinch, top control, and submitting from the top.
You have signed to fight for ONE Championship. Tell us about ONE Championship and the Asian MMA scene.
The MMA scene in Asia is booming! ONE Championship have grown so fast in the last few years. The shows are such exciting events and the fans are very passionate about the sport. I’m excited to be a part of the sport here.
You are also teaching BJJ at Evolve MMA in Singapore, are you surprised at how far BJJ has spread and all the different countries that now have gyms?
Yes I m surprise how big BJJ has become. Even the smaller countries like Singapore now have BJJ, I started noticing this sometime ago when I use to travel for seminars. I remember being surprised by the women’s camps that I used to attend. For example I was very surprised once in Finland when there were 50 girls who turned up for one camp. I love to see this!!
What do you think about leg attacks in BJJ nowadays? When and how did you start working on your footlocks?
I love the leg attacks, but only when you know what you are doing. When you don’t waste your time and energy in a failed footlock, they are beautiful. Up until 2009 I only had one variation, after this in 2010 I moved to train in Santos and I was able to learn and adjust more variations to my game.
Please guide us through a regular day for you in Singapore?
I usually get up at 7:15am. I start off my day with a protein shake and a cafezinho. I get to the gym at 9am for the 1st training session of the day with my teammates on the Evolve Fight Team. Afterwards I then have lunch and teach 1 or 2 BJJ classes. I then rest and then go to the 2nd training session in the afternoon. After that I either rest or teach another BJJ class and at night I usually like to get some more BJJ training in for myself. After that I’ll return home to end the day.
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