Rafael Nunes won a belt in his last fight and he could be in line for another title shot if he can overcome Koji Ando in a battle between two lightweight champions at ONE FC: "War of Dragons."
The Brazilian is undefeated, boasting a perfect professional record of 10-0, and is on a streak of nine successive stoppage wins, but he has been handed a tough debut against the Legend FC lightweight champion.
Ando won that title in his most recent fight and Nunes knows it’s not going to be an easy fight, but is confident of securing an eleventh straight win.
"Koji has great skills fighting stand up and it's hard to take him down, but once on the ground, I think I'm better than him and I'm ready to knock him out too," he told MMAmania.com.
Nunes’ last three wins have all come at the expense of much more experienced opponents and while Ando is a champion with a strong record, he thinks he has already beaten fighters of the same sort of caliber.
"I don't know if he is the best fighter I have ever fought because In Brazil, I have fought very tough guys with more than 20 fights. But for sure he will be a great opponent and I respect him."
Nunes made his professional debut four years ago but says he has been studying martial arts for much longer.
"I began to train martial arts seven years ago. I feel great when I fight and I love to do this! I have trained and competed in Jiu Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai as well as MMA and I have the lightweight belt of Premium Fight Championship, one of the most important events in Brazil."
A glance at Nunes record reflects the risk he poses to opponents because despite being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who is known for his submission skills, he also has four wins by technical knockout and says he is comfortable fighting either standing up or on the ground.
"I like to stand up but if the fight goes to the ground it's okay, because I will be aggressive and try to control the movements of my opponent."
Nunes has not fought since winning the Premium FC title a year ago, but says he was content to sit on the sidelines and bide his time while waiting for the right opportunity to emerge.
"I was waiting for an invitation to fight in another country. I want to have international experience, so I refused a lot of fights and chose ONE FC."
He joins a division which is stacked with talent where Shinya Aoki is the undisputed champion and the likes of Christian Holley, Kamal Shalorus, Vuyisile Colossa, Eduard Folayang and Caros Fodor are jostling for position just below him.
Both Ando and Nunes signed for ONE FC as champions for other organizations and on the back of winning streaks and the winner of their July 11th bout could well come into contention for an immediate shot at the title.
Aoki is set to defend his belt for the first time in August and with so many potential future match ups to look forward to, Nunes is excited to see his name on ONE FC’s rapidly expanding lightweight roster.
"ONE FC is the most important and biggest event in Asia and will be an awesome experience for me. I'm very happy and like to thank all from ONE FC for believing in me, I will do my best to put on great fights for them," he said.
Two of ONE FC’s current pound-for-pound stars are both Brazilian with Bibiano Fernandes established as one of the most dominant bantamweights in the history of the sport and Adriano Moraes a rapidly rising flyweight star.
Nunes knows he has an opportunity to follow in their footsteps by making a name for himself in Asia and is excited about competing in a continent which is regarded as the spiritual home of martial arts,
"People from Asia have so much knowledge about martial arts and in Brazil we learn from them and then make some differences of our own. I feel like I am going back to the place where everything began."
Fernandes holds the 135-pound belt while Moraes is set to fight for the 145-pound strap before the end of the year, but if Nunes can beat Ando in impressive fashion, then the undefeated Brazilian will be in pole position to follow in their footsteps by challenging for a ONE FC title.