A few weeks ago, five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Leandro Ataides showed yet again how complete a martial artist he truly is.
The physically imposing 31-year-old utilized his striking expertise to score an emphatic TKO over former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday, 12 May.
Nearly halfway through the third round, “Leo” leapt through the air with a picture-perfect Superman punch. He stunned the Russian, before bringing him to the canvas and finishing Bigdash off with rapid-fire punches.
Ataides now finds himself on a three-bout win streak, and becomes the first person to stop Bigdash, whose only prior defeat was a decision loss to reigning ONE Middleweight & Light Heavyweight World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang.
“I am very happy with the win,” the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil native says.
“I had great partners who supported me through [my training] camp. We knew it was going to be hard, but we did it together.”
Prior to the bout, Ataides revealed his intentions of going back to his BJJ roots and hunting for a submission, but evidently the match did not transpire that way.
The Brazilian believed he was having great success in his stand-up, and opted to keep the contest upright. It proved to be a wise choice, as he ultimately earned his fourth knockout victory inside the ONE cage.
He credits his skills as a complete martial artist, and his ability to switch game plans on the fly, for what is undoubtedly the biggest win in his mixed martial arts career.
“We needed to change the plan, but I was ready for anything,” he explains.
“I am happy because we got the finish so I did not have to go to the judges, and also because he is the former [world] champion and I made it clear 100 percent that I beat him.”
Following the contest, “Leo” was incredibly emotional, because of all the sacrifices he made in order to improve his chances of success.
Ataides initially prepared for his January clash with Bigdash at Capital Training Center in Beijing, China — nearly 11,000 miles away from his family in Rio — before the bout got pulled at the last minute.
The Brazilian doubled down his efforts in the Chinese capital when the match was rescheduled for ONE: GRIT AND GLORY, and spent even more time away from his loved ones for the betterment of his career and his family’s future.
“When you win, you have to make sacrifices, but some can make you feel a lot of pain. I want to share this with my family, and that is why I was so emotional,” he reveals.
“It was a big win, but I have been away from my family for around five months. I work for ONE Championship and I will do what they ask, but I did not get to have a break with my family, my kids, or my mom. So this was all for them.”
Now Ataides is on the cusp of making all of that sacrifice pay off. By punching out Bigdash, “Leo” punched his ticket to a middleweight world title showdown with the division’s king Aung La N Sang.
Ever since defeating Bigdash for the ONE Middleweight World Championship in June 2017, Aung La N Sang has become a national hero in his homeland of Myanmar.
Also, “The Burmese Python” has continued to take on immense challenges, and has passed each one with flying colors.
He submitted Alain “The Panther” Ngalani in the promotion’s inaugural Open Weight Super-Bout last November, and then knocked out Alexandre “Bebezao” Machado in a record-setting 56 seconds to capture the vacant ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship.
Ataides is very aware of the skills and heart Aung La N Sang brings to the cage. Though he respects everything the Myanmar hero has accomplished, the Brazilian believes he can be the one to defeat “The Burmese Python” for the gold.
“He is really good, and that is why he is the world champion, but mostly he is a good striker,” Ataides says.
“I think I could beat him on the ground, but this is mixed martial arts — not grappling or kickboxing. Anything can happen.
“My training partners will help me to study him and prepare. This is my life, I want to be recovered after back-to-back training camps, but whenever I am asked [to face him], I will be ready.”