If you’re a fan of great grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY will be a must-watch event.
World-famous BJJ practitioner Michelle Nicolini returns to the cage on 21 April, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, in an effort to extend her ONE winning streak to two.
However, Nicolini has a stiff test in front of her. The eight-time BJJ world champion and International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Hall of Famer squares off with the undefeated Irina Mazepa, in a highly-anticipated strawweight showdown.
The bout is the latest chapter in MMA’s grappler versus striker book, with Nicolini owning the advantage on the mat, while her Russian adversary Mazepa is a feared striker and five-time wushu world champion.
Nicolini, who calls Singapore’s Evolve MMA home, is ready to put on a show for every fan.
“Fans can expect me to give my best,” the 35-year-old Brazilian promises. “I have improved a lot since I joined Evolve.”
In many ways, Nicolini’s path to MMA was anything but certain. She had a thriving BJJ career teaching seminars and competing around the world. Her early attempts at dipping a toe in the waters of MMA left her wondering if professional fighting was a worthwhile pursuit.
“Every time I trained for a fight, the promotion cancelled,” she recalls of her early days. At one point, she was so discouraged, she even thought: “Maybe this is not for me.”
In October 2014, Nicolini hit the crossroads of her MMA career. She suffered her first professional loss, and took two years away from the sport she’d been pursuing part-time. She had decisions to make.
Nicolini still had a burning desire to compete, but BJJ was no longer providing fuel for that fire. In 2016, she made some radical life changes. She walked away from the sport she’d previously dedicated her life to, moved to Singapore, and started training at Evolve MMA alongside the many world champions there to become a full-time mixed martial artist.
The gamble paid off. That November, Nicolini made her ONE Championship debut. It was a short day of work, as she finished Egypt’s Mona Samir via submission at a little over two minutes into the opening round.
“I loved it,” she says, reflecting on the bout. “It was an amazing experience to fight in Singapore. It was relaxing to fight at home, and be a part of the big show with my team and students there for support. Everything was perfect.”
At ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, she looks to make lightning strike twice. With Mazepa’s striking skills, Nicolini will likely look to get this one to the canvas and end it early. No matter where the fight goes, she promises the bout will be one to keep an eye on.
“We have been watching [Mazepa] a lot and working on some things,” the Evolve MMA product says. “I think she is good. She is pretty fast with a lot of experience standing. We are going to put on a show for everybody.”