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Michelle Nicolini on ONE FC debut: “If there is a submission opportunity, I will go for it”

Black Belt World Champion Michelle Nicolini. Photo: Personal archive
Black Belt World Champion Michelle Nicolini. Photo: Personal archive

*Eight-time world BJJ champion Michelle Nicolini retired from the mats this year to focus on MMA. Next Friday the 11th, she will debut at ONE Championship, the biggest Asian MMA league, in an event held in Singapore. She will take on Egypt’s Mona Samir, who is equally experienced in MMA at three professional bouts.

In an exclusive interview, Nicolini, who is living in Singapore, talked about adapting to Asia, retirement from BJJ and moving to MMA, and shared some thoughts on debuting at ONE FC.

“Obviously, with my background being in BJJ, if there is a submission opportunity I will go for it,” Nicolini said, “but at the same time I am ready for every aspect of the fight, no matter where it goes.”

Read the full interview below.

Why did you decide to leave BJJ competitions and pursue MMA full-time?

I felt like I had accomplished everything I set out to do in BJJ and was looking for a new challenge. I love the process, and learning and testing myself, and that is what I am really enjoying about pursuing MMA full-time now.

You signed for ONE Championship and are set to make your debut on the 11th of November at ONE Defending Honor. Tell us how you are feeling about your upcoming ONE Championship debut. 

I am very excited to make my ONE Championship debut, and the fact that it is in my new home of Singapore makes it even better. ONE are the largest MMA promotion in Asia and put on amazing shows. I attended their show in Macau earlier this year with some friends and we were all blown away by the whole event.

You have moved to live and train in Singapore at Evolve MMA. Why did you decide to make that move? 

When making the transition to focus on MMA full-time, I wanted to find a place where I could get top training all in one place. A lot of places you have to travel to and train at different gyms for different parts of your MMA game. What’s great about being here at Evolve is I get to train with all the world champions in all the different disciplines. Being able to train with Muay Thai, boxing, BJJ, and MMA world champions every day is something that is great for me and my MMA career.

What has the move to Singapore been like?

I like Singapore so far. I am far away from my family, but everyone here at Evolve MMA has been very welcoming. I am keeping busy with training and teaching BJJ at Evolve MMA. It’s great to see that even over here in Asia lots of people are learning BJJ.

Singapore isn’t a place that many people think of when they think of BJJ. What is the BJJ scene like out there? 

The BJJ scene in Singapore is relatively new but growing very fast. When I started teaching at Evolve I was quite surprised by how many students there were. People are starting to learn more about what BJJ is, and with MMA growing in Asia more people are being introduced to BJJ too. There are a few BJJ competitions here in Singapore each year. I am also happy to see that there are quite a few girls taking up BJJ.

You are fighting Mona Samir in your ONE Championship debut on the 11th of November. What do you know about her and how do you see the fight going?

I believe the fans will see a good fight from us. Mona Samir is on the Egyptian national wrestling team, so that shows where her strengths lie. Obviously, with my background being in BJJ, if there is a submission opportunity I will go for it, but at the same time I am ready for every aspect of the fight, no matter where it goes.

*Jason Petlueng contributed (www.evolve-mma.com).

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