Classical and no-gi world champion; first female absolute champion in IBJJF Worlds history; ADCC champion. These are the credentials Michele Nicolini carries as she approaches to fight again in the gi on Feb. 23 in a BJJ Stars superfight.
The event, set to take place at Hebraica Club in São Paulo, has a card filled with brilliant fighters, including her and Bia Basílio. Retired from BJJ’s adult age group but going strong in MMA, 37-year-old Nicolini will be butting heads with a younger opponent who is active in the tournament circuit. But she doesn’t look at this duel as a test. Here are the thoughts she shared in an interview with Graciemag:
GRACIEMAG: After withdrawing from the competitive scene, what is your motivation to test yourself again in BJJ?
MICHELLE NICOLINI: It’s not testing myself, because I think I’ve been well tested; I have many “seals” of quality. I never stopped training in the gi, and it so happened that I really liked BJJ Stars’s proposal — a sensational card — so it will be a pleasure to fight in an event of this level. The motivation comes from the many messages I receive from beloved people who ask me to compete again. I think the time I’ve gone without fighting in the gi has made me want it that much more.
Did you accept right away or did you need to think before signing with BJJ Stars?
Fepa called me, made the invitation, and I found it really cool from the start. I still don’t have a date for my next MMA fight in One FC, where I compete, so why not accept it, right? I talked to my friends and gave him the answer the next day, I think.
What do you think of Bia Basílio as an opponent?
Bianca is quite young, explosive, tough, and she’s at the top. I always follow women’s BJJ and was already watching her fights. I believe we have very different styles, actually, and this promises to make the fight very interesting.
Do you think your stamina in MMA is currently your strong suit?
Every training session, preparation and competition is valid to help you fight. MMA is a separate sport, quite different from BJJ, but they are connected. This helps me with conditioning, helps me have a more bulletproof mind and know that I can go beyond my limits, because training for an MMA fight is indeed very hard.
You won your first Worlds in 2006. What is your secret to staying motivated and in great technical shape to this day?
Discipline! I love training, and that’s the secret. Wanting to learn, seeking to keep up to date in knowledge and conditioning. I’m 37 and I gotta say I train harder than many young girls!
What’s after the BJJ Stars superfight — ADCC? No-Gi Worlds?
I’m going to turn my focus to MMA, but those events with pre-matched fights interest me, as long as they don’t interfere with my camps for any fights. Perhaps another one of these. Perhaps the ADCC in California in September. Only God knows the future.