Michelle Nicolini is an eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) world champion who already had a big name before making her ONE Championship debut last month.
The Brazilian enhanced her reputation with a quickfire submission win over Mona Samir at ONE: "Defending Honor" and has her sights set on becoming the mixed martial arts (MMA) organization's inaugural women's flyweight champion.
"Winning a ONE title would mean a lot," she said. "It's my biggest dream at the moment."
The number one contender in the division is Irina Mazepa, a Russian stand-up specialist who has beaten both Ana Julaton and Ann Osman. The Brazilian admits she has been keeping an eye on an opponent who could potentially face her in a title fight.
"Give me some time, maybe one or two more fights before I'll be ready for Irina. She's good, aggressive. I've been watching her for some time, and I've noticed some gaps in her game."
Nicolini's ONE Championship debut went entirely according to plan with a first round rear naked choke win. The 34 year old already had three fights under her belt but has never experienced anything like the 12,000 capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"ONE Championship is the biggest MMA show ever. Not only was the card amazing, but everything worked so well. The treatment they gave to the fighters was great. It was one surprise after another that night. Fighting in it was special, but it was also incredible to watch. Even if you don't like MMA, you can have fun out there."
A few months prior to the match Nicolini relocated to Singapore in order to join Evolve MMA. She had fought in the cage three times before but says being able to train with world champions in Muay Thai, boxing and wrestling as well as BJJ has helped take her game to the next level.
"I gave up so many things to move to Singapore, but I know my sacrifices will pay off. I'm still learning new skills in wrestling and Muay Thai, as well as adapting my BJJ game for MMA. There's still a long way to the top, but I will reach it."
In the past, Nicolini has tried to train for BJJ tournaments and MMA competitions at the same time but now she is fully focused on her fighting career.
"Evolve has everything in the same place. There is the MMA fighters program with experienced fighters who help me a lot. The Muay Thai team is amazing, they have so many years of fighting experience, and a lot to share. I've been to other places before I moved to Singapore. By far, Evolve is the best gym I've ever been."
Nicolini's record currently stands at 3-1 but prior to signing with ONE Championship and relocating to Singapore she had never been able to fight on a regular basis. That has all changed now and the Brazilian is finally able to apply herself completely to MMA.
"I'm 100 percent focused on my MMA training. I teach some classes at Evolve, but my main focus is on training. I have my monthly salary here. I don't need to worry about travel here. I don't need to drive to different training places every day."
ONE Championship has cards coming up in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur at the start of 2017. Nicolini hopes to be one of them and believes big things are coming in the next calendar year,
"I want to fight at the end of January or February. 2017 will be my year!"