Having to wait nearly a year to get back in the cage following an eight-second knockout loss could drive some athletes mad with anticipation. For two-time BJJ No-Gi World Champion Bruno Pucci, the time off allowed him to be extra prepared for his return to the cage Friday, 30 June.
The 26-year-old Brazilian is scheduled to meet Jimmy “The Silencer” Yabo, a heavy-handed Filipino, in a featherweight affair at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon Myanmar.
For “Puccibull,” it has been all about keeping a positive state of mind, even when he exits the cage without getting his hand raised.
“Of course you can never predict these things, but you always have to be positive,” he explains. “If you think positive, then positive things will happen to you. I never think about losing. When I close my eyes, I believe I have all the tools to win this match.”
It is a state of mind the BJJ champion has had since childhood. Pucci fell into competition out of necessity. At age 10, he was diagnosed with paediatric growth hormone deficiency. In addition to daily hormone injections, doctors also recommended sports to counter the therapy’s effects. In the early years, he struggled to find his fit. He tried everything from skateboarding to swimming.
Finally, in 2004, he found the sport for him, and the gateway to his professional calling. He discovered Brazilian jiu-jistu courtesy of a neighborhood gym, where the technical aspects of the martial art appealed to him, and his love affair with grappling began. “Puccibull” committed himself to the craft, trained tirelessly, and snagged back-to-back BJJ No-Gi World Championships in 2009 and 2010.
With a solid BJJ resume under his belt, the young man set his sights on mixed martial arts. While some practitioners opt to test their skills on the amateur circuit, Pucci jumped right into professional competition.
He made his professional debut in October 2011, winning his first three bouts, including a rear-naked choke win over Bashir Ahmad in his promotional debut at ONE: CHAMPIONS AND WARRIORS.
The Brazilian, however, suffered setbacks after starting out on a high note. After dropping a contest to Major Overall in May 2014, eye and back surgery to repair two herniated discs kept him on the shelf for nearly 18 months.
Despite roaring back to life with another rear-naked choke win over Anthony Engelen in December 2015, he took another step back the following September, when he was flattened in eight seconds by Nuerdebleke Bahetihan.
While a quick knockout loss would break most people’s spirits, it provided a valuable lesson to the still-growing martial artist.
“I hit him with the punch, and then he hit me back, and I just blacked out,” he recalls. “People were like, ‘Well, you did this wrong,’ but I learned a lot. I learned that I could be more patient. I would say that is my problem. I am a very impatient person. Even in the cage, I am impatient. I want to get things done quickly, so that was my fault. Every fight is a learning process, and that is what happened.”
Since then, Pucci has picked up some new techniques and learned the virtue of patience. He will look to show it all off against Yabo come fight night. And against a man they call “The Silencer,” patience will be a must. All five of the Filipino’s wins have come by way of knockout.
“His heavy hands, his boxing background and him being a counter striker makes it dangerous, because if I want to grapple him, I need to get in and close the distance. It is a danger zone for me,” Pucci admits. “Of course, I believe in my grappling skills — that is his weakness and where I am strong. With this fight, it is who can get in there, perform better on that night and stick to their game plan.”
Despite the danger his opponent presents, “Puccibull” refuses to let the past travel with him to the present.
“Bad things happen for a reason,” he continues. “I lost before, and it was not a nice feeling. But it made me even hungrier, and I learned from my mistakes. I know what I should be careful of, so I am very optimistic about this fight. I am working hard. I think hard work pays off. That is what it has been like my whole life, and it will not be different now.”