With three days to go before the tenth iteration of the IBJJF’s European Championship in Lisbon, Portugal, the beasts of the gi are gearing up to put on a show at Casal Vistoso Gymnasium. And the beauties of the gi, too.
São Paulo, Brazil’s Michelle Nicolini, a star on CheckMat team, will this year return to the featherweight division, which now includes recently promoted black belts Mackenzie Dern of Humaitá and Nyjah Easton of Lloyd Irvin.
Michelle is dreaming of repeating her achievement from last year, when she won the absolute division at the championship: “Becoming two-time absolute champion would be just awesome,” she tells GRACIEMAG.com in the following interview.
GRACIEMAG: What kind of shape are you in for this European Open, the first tournament of the IBJJF calendar?
MICHELLE NICOLINI: The European Open has become a really big championship, one I love to be at. Although it is January, I feel fine, expecting to have good fights. I did most of my training in Santos and have been in Europe for a week now. I came here for a training camp in Finland, where there’s always a lot of people competing. It’s been a great way to finish up training.
What can Jiu-Jitsu fans expect from you?
I intend to show good Jiu-Jitsu. This year I’ll compete at featherweight. I’m already familiar with the other two girls signed up, and I think they’ll make for some lively matches. The most important thing is to have good fights, and that’s what the folks in Lisbon deserve to see. That’s what the crowd will remember.
Will you be going for gold in the absolute again?
This year there are four of us girls in the black belt team. There’s Marina Ribeiro, Ida Hansson, Shanti Abelha and me. Only two can represent us, but we haven’t yet decided which two those will be. I really like competing in the absolute, and becoming two-time champion would be just awesome.
How do you intend to receive black belt newbie Mackenzie Dern?
She’s only a newbie as a black belt, because she’s been in more championships than I have (laughs). It’s great to welcome to the division another black belt with the kind of background she has. I feel that she, like me, is someone who goes on the attack, without stalling, and is always smiling, which makes the Jiu-Jitsu all the prettier. She’ll be very well received!
To you, which other female fighters are flying under the radar and may storm onto the scene in 2013?
Without a doubt, Karen Antunes [of team CheckMat], who won everything last year and just got her brown belt. She’ll be making her European Championship debut. I also put my money on Marina Ribeiro, who moved to Santos and has shown great diversity in her game. She’s doing great. There’s also the Swede Janni Larsson, another who won everything there is last year. And this past weekend at the Abu Dhabis trials we saw Nádia Melo [of GFTeam], who beat some tough girls in Niterói. I really like the names in the brown belt-lightweight division at the European Open. I feel we’ll have excellent fights in that weight class. So that’s that, this weekend the 2013 season begins. Tune in!
>>> What do you say, gentle reader, who are the girls who will take front and center at the European Open and during the rest of the 2013 season?