One of the great black belts in action in women’s Jiu-Jitsu, Michelle Nicolini is still celebrating having won the world featherweight title. The win came in grand style, having made it past stalwart competitors like Ana Carolina Lebre and Kyra Gracie. Now the CheckMat rep is getting ready for her MMA debut, which will be no walk in the part either. On June 23 she’ll be fighting at Inka Fight, an event in Peru, a place where the crowd tends to bring the pressure on Brazilian fighters.
Find out what the fighter had to tell GRACIEMAG.com:
How do you feel about your matches at the Worlds and winning the title?
I felt really great and focused. I had a by in my first match and faced Tatiana Nascimento in the second. I managed to sink a figure-four footlock on her. The next match was against Carol Lebre, who’s beaten a lot of tough girls before and even Kyra – more reason not to take any risks against her. I pulled guard on her right away and luckily managed the triangle early in the match. I was through to the final – half the job done. All that was left was one more match and nothing was going to distract my focus at that point. I was full of desire to win. People always ask me if I’ve ever faced Kyra before: this was our first fight. She’s really technical, tight. I didn’t have much room to work with. When, in the end, I saw I was ahead on advantages, with her defending in a triangle, I though, “She’s not going to tap, but she’s not going to get out of here either.” So I heard my cheering section counting down and I celebrated. It was pure joy!
How do you see women’s Jiu-Jitsu presently? Who do you feel the top fighters are?
It’s come a long way. We still need to fight for a more equal standing, carve out our place at events and even in the media. For as long as we don’t carve out that place for ourselves, we won’t be the beneficiaries of sponsorship and good payouts. I feel the main female fighters have been preparing themselves for competition in a professional manner. The ones who don’t dedicate themselves 100% drop off along the way. I know the female teams coming up are making it because they can count on lots of dedication from the athletes, teamwork, girls who abdicate from many things to become champions. At least the black belts I know, this year, world champions, forsook many things for the dream of winning the Worlds, for having their work recognized. They’re to be congratulated!
Why did you decide to risk fighting MMA in Peru? Are there other offers in the works as well?
Curiosity, the desire to see what it’s like, and, as you yourself said, to take a risk doing something different. I want to get in the cage and feel the adrenaline everyone’s talking about. I may freeze up when the time comes, but I may also like it. I have to do a fight to clear up any doubts, come to conclusions. I don’t have any other offers yet.
After MMA, what will your routine be like? Full blast in training for the ADCC?
Everything in its proper order. It’s a good thing I’m not injured (laughs)! When I get back from Peru I’ll take a week off, stay at home with my parents, my boyfriend, my dogs… I’ll get back to the rote of training in the first week of July. I’ll need a lot of help from my training partners. The ADCC is everyone’s dream; I want to go there and win it.
And who will be the big challenges at the ADCC?
We know this is an event not just anyone signs up for; you have to have won a tryout or have a great CV to get invited. I feel all the battles will be tough and I’m prepared for whoever I face. It will be great to watch Leo Vieira compete before my eyes. I’ve only ever seen him compete once, in 2005, also in the ADCC. It’s been a while! I’d like for my training friends Luiza Monteiro and Marina Ribeiro to get invited, as well as “Buchecha”. All of them have been having great campaigns. Let’s wait and see.