Euro champ Michelle Nicolini: absolute gold shouldn’t overshadow mistakes

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Michelle Nicolini armbars Monica Vanessa at European Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Michelle Nicolini armbars Monica Vanessa at European Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Photo: Raphael Nogueira/

The black belt Michelle Nicolini (CheckMat) won the women’s absolute division at the IBJJF European Championship this past weekend, outdoing two opponents. In her first match, she submitted Monica Vanessa with an armbar. In the final, she went up against her teammate Ida Hansson, who is soon to become a medical doctor, and won by 16 to 4.

Even after a near perfect campaign, the new queen of Portugal sees her conquest through the lens of a champion: she doesn’t want to rest on her laurels; she wants to pursue new questions. Perish uncertainty, in with the next queries.

The Rodrigo Cavaca-trained champion, who literally lost count of how many gold medals she has in Jiu-Jitsu, remained in Europe, where caught up with her for a chat about errors, training, strategies and her evolution.

“I’m in Germany, then I’ll head to Switzerland, Sweden, and then Brazil. On February 11 I have a seminar with Andrei Andrezzo in São Paulo; all the readers are invited,” said Michelle in invitation.


“I agree in full that victory covers up mistakes. And that doesn’t happen only in Jiu-Jitsu. In competitions of all kinds, the ones who win most are the ones who make the least mistakes, or know how to capitalize on the opponent’s mistakes best. But the error will always be there! As professional athletes we can realize where we went wrong and tune in to our trainers’ orientation regarding it. With so many years competing, I can tell how victory is something complex that depends on a lot of different factors, which mount up starting from concentration, controlling anxiety, patience, even mental and physical conditioning, the referee’s state of attention and the state the opponent’s in. Often we make mistakes, veer off the path we had set for ourselves but the opponent can’t capitalize on the situation and we get a chance to get back on track during the match.”


“Yes, I messed up at the Europeans. It was in the absolute final. I made a mistake, Ida scored, but I managed to keep up the pace and stay ahead on the scoreboard. This situation of risk is there the whole time in Jiu-Jitsu, and we have to keep on our toes to make sure we don’t repeat the mistake—after all, we might not get a chance to correct it during the course of the match.”


“With one keyword: Study. In my opinion, study via observing and analyzing matches are the tools that help us to be more keen to mistakes. I always ask for technical opinions from people who watch my matches and observe my opponents in action. I always see things in a different light that way. I also talk to Cavaca a lot about how my game is evolving. And there are some folks on my team who have a good strategic vision, like Leo Vieira and Carlos Holanda [also European champion]. I really like listening to what they have to say about my opponents. As they are very familiar with my style of fighting, they can point out where I might run risk, what the best strategy is for each match, and the best way to try and win.


“I’ve been in lots of competitions in the main division over the last few years, besides the medals I won at the lower belts; that’s why I have to confess that I have no idea how many medals I’ve won. But you got me curious, I’m going to count them all as soon as I get back to Brazil!”

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