The black belt Michelle Nicolini of team CheckMat won the featherweight division at the 2012 Worlds. With the triumph, the Rodrigo Cavaca-trained fighter notched her fifth title in the competition—a monumental achievement.
She spoke with GRACIEMAG.com and recounted everything she went through in reaching the title.
WITH THE 2012 TITLE, YOU BECAME A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION. WHAT’S THE SECRET TO STAYING AT THE TOP FOR SO LONG, SINCE 2007?
I’ve been participating in the Worlds since 2002. It’s not easy staying at the top. I feel we all go through hardships in making it to the top, but the hardest part really is staying there. The secret is to enjoy what you do. That’s when you’ll want to get better and better, to perfect yourself more and more, and that way you certainly won’t come up short on results. The thing is to stay focused on your objectives.
YOU FACED ANOTHER CHECKMAT REP, MARINA RIBEIRO, IN THE FINAL. HOW DID YOU GUYS COME TO THE DECISION YOU’D GO AT IT FOR REAL?
In 2009, at a different championship, our teachers decided we shouldn’t fight each other. On the occasion we didn’t fight and things became uncomfortable between us. Now, the both of us see things differently, so we decided to fight. After all, this is our job. There’s a lot involved, sponsors, lots of sweat spilt in training, for us to determine who’ll be the champion of the biggest event in the world by doing odds and evens. We’re really close friends. Marina’s a great girl, and whenever we can we compete in different divisions. For this Worlds, though, there was no way; there wasn’t enough time for us to plan accordingly. After all, I don’t like fighting my friends, much less one on my team. But it would be better if we didn’t fight.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST HURDLE YOU OVERCAME IN GETTING GOLD IN 2012?
The way I see it, the biggest obstacle was a lack of sponsorship and some injuries. Not having enough time to recover, I was bothered by persistent pain in training. So resting on weekends was fundamental. The last two weeks were pure suffering, since they became more serious, with the stress from the diet, travel and training. Now, though, I have the incredible feeling of a job well done. I’m going to take a month off to travel in Europe, and soon I’ll take up training again, targeting the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds, coming up in November [no date has been announced yet].