Michelle Nicolini is set to step inside the cage for the first time in two years when she faces Mona Samir at ONE: "Defending Honor" next month.
The Brazilian is an eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) world champion who already has three fights to her name. She recently joined Evolve MMA in Singapore and after a decorated grappling career the 34 year old has switched her focus to competitive MMA.
Nicolini fought once in 2011 and twice in 2014 but says she wasn't able to focus full time on MMA until she was offered a contract by ONE Championship.
"After my first MMA fight in 2011, I always wanted to fight again but as I was new to MMA it was hard for me to find more fights. Jiu jitsu was my living so It was difficult to change because I didn't make money in MMA at that time. Now that I received a professional proposal from ONE Championship, I can train and focus 100% on my MMA dream."
ONE: "Defending Honor" is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on November 11th. It will be the first time that Nicolini has fought in her adopted home.
"I came to Singapore few months ago for a week of training and to teach a BJJ seminar at Evolve MMA. At the end I got the chance to move to here to train at teach at Evolve, so I jumped on the opportunity. At the moment I don't have anything to complain about. Other than the fact that I miss my family in Brazil, I have found a good life in Singapore. I can eat healthy, train, and I get to meet new people everyday, life is good! My goal of succeeding in MMA will be always my priority. Everything is right at the moment."
Angela Lee recently became the first ever female ONE Championship champion when she captured the atomweight belt. Nicolini will be competing in the strawweight division and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of her Evolve MMA team mate by winning a title with Asia's biggest MMA promotion.
The two actually went head to head in a grappling match in Macau recently with Nicolini winning by submission. The Brazilian walked away with $10,000 USD in prize money after winning two separate tournaments and it was an experience she enjoyed.
"Macau was really nice. I felt at home doing BJJ with IBJJF rules. It was pretty well organized and it was special due to the equal prizes money for both men and women divisions. Super cool."
Nicolini also got to be cageside for the ONE: "Heroes of the World" event in Macau and was surprised by the sheer scale of the event.
"I went there with some Brazilians friends who came for the grappling competition and we all were shocked. What a nice show to watch. For me Lenne Hardt is amazing. She is a show in itself. I can't wait to hear her announce my name for my fight."
"As I am new at Evolve they all try to help me a lot. All the Muay Thai World Champion always give me advice, but the one that I have been working with the most has been Penek Sitnumnoi. He is really good, very technical. In the other training sessions Eddie Ng, BJJ World Champion Bruno Pucci, and BJJ World Champion Brodinho Issa have been giving me special attention. All of the guys very patient with me and help me a lot, like Benedict Ang and Amir Khan."
Her opponent comes from a wrestling background and the Brazilian says she has been doing her homework on Samir.
"My trainers and I have watched some of her past fights and I think she is a tough opponent and I'm looking forward to meeting her in the cage."
Nicolini has plenty of experience when it comes to preparing for BJJ competitions but says MMA is more of a challenge.
"MMA is harder. You have to train everything and it takes longer to get better. I am glad I already have BJJ but I even have to adapt this to MMA."
It's a challenge she relishes and Nicolini is looking forward to fighting in Asia for the first time.
"I'm not nervous but excited. I love this feeling, I wanna fight and win this one!"