Bruno Pucci has a lot to smile about.
The 27-year-old Brazilian is becoming a force in ONE Championship’s featherweight division, trains daily with martial arts world champions at Evolve MMA, and is engaged to marry ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
Everything has been going particularly smoothly for the two-time No-Gi BJJ world champion, and 2017 has been landmark year for him.
Getting to this point, both in his career and his life, was not easy. In fact, it seems like the odds were stacked against Pucci since the day he was born.
Living With Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growing up in Curitiba, Brazil, he was a hefty child who was bullied often, had few friends, and coped with the heartache and other emotional issues surrounding his parents’ separation. Also, he was abnormally short, and at the age of ten, the doctors diagnosed him with pediatric growth hormone deficiency.
For the next five years, Pucci had to receive treatment in the form of daily injections to correct the disorder. But in addition to the injections, the doctor also offered a valuable piece of advice to him and his father.
“Basically, the doctor recommended me to play a sport to help with my condition,” he recalls. “I tried a couple of sports, but I never stuck to any of them.”
The budding athlete nicknamed “Puccibull” did not exhibit any natural talent for skateboarding, football, or tennis, and although he excelled at swimming, the activity did not hold his interest.
On a random afternoon in 2004, however, as the Brazilian was roaming the neighborhood with his dad, they discovered a martial arts academy. The dojo offered classes in a variety of disciplines, including Muay Thai, karate, and boxing.
That immediately appealed to Pucci, who had been a fan of action movies featuring the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme. As a result, he developed quite a fascination for striking disciplines.
Despite an initial fondness for punching and kicking, his dad suggested that he try out a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class instead. Young Pucci complied, and was instantly hooked. There was one technique, in particular, that sold him on the “gentle art.”
“I learned an armbar, and found the move cool. I did not know what it was about. It was different from my perspective. I was not just thinking about punches. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is very effective’ because they put me in an armbar and I could not escape, so that got my attention,” he remembers.
Three months into his training, his coach invited him to test his skills in competition. From that moment on, Pucci participated in as many tournaments as possible. Also, the aspiring mat wizard lost his excess weight, transformed into a strapping young athlete, and gained self-defense skills in the process. Needless to say, the bullying also stopped.
Becoming A BJJ World Champion
At the age of 16, he took his jiu-jitsu pursuits more seriously, and dreamed about becoming a world champion. He spent most of his free time on the mats, determined to get better and achieve his primary objective.
Early on, however, he did not have a reputation for winning. The Brazilian had subpar performances, even when facing opponents with the same ranking, and had quite a few uncertainties he desperately needed to conquer.
“There was a point in the beginning where I did not know if I was going to make it. I was so nervous. Mentally, I could not compete. I was doing awful in competitions, but the next day I was always back in the gym training,” he explains.
“I used to compete almost every weekend. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but the next day I was training already. I saw how hard it is to be a world champion, so I just said I would try my best and see what happens.”
The more Pucci trained, the more confident he became. His techniques were continuously being refined, and unsurprisingly, he was performing better in competition. All of that hard work and dedication culminated in 2009, when he won the No-Gi BJJ World Championship. He would win again in 2010.
“There is no one training more than me. Maybe I am not as talented as some guys who win in their first attempt, but I will keep trying and do my best,” he re-affirms. “There is no secret. As long as you train hard and work hard, and keep doing it, then there is no way to fail. It is not easy, and it takes a long time to become a world champion, but I had the confidence. I did well.”
Puccibull, who was awarded his black belt by Sebastian Lalli in 2012, knows exactly what it takes to become a world champion, and he has been concentrating on replicating that championship pedigree inside the ONE Championship cage.
Powering Through Adversity
In October 2011, the Brazilian officially entered the world of professional martial arts.
He won his first three bouts via rear-naked choke, including his ONE debut over Bashir Ahmad in September 2013. During that time, he also relocated to Singapore, and joined the famed Evolve Fight Team.
Following his knockout loss at the hands of Major Overall in May 2014, “Puccibull” was forced to spend 18 months on the sidelines as he recovered from eye surgery, as well as an extensive back surgery to repair two herniated discs.
Though he won in his return bout, he had another setback when he suffered a knockout loss to Nuerdebieke Bahetihan in September 2016. It was a difficult loss, but Pucci knew to see it as a learning experience, and he learned quite possibly his most important lesson.
“I learned that I could be more patient,” Pucci admits. “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 (loss to Bahetihan) was my fault. Every match is a learning process, and that is what happened.”
Now, the two-time BJJ world champion looks to be at the top of his game. He recently tore through Jimmy “The Silencer” Yabo at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION this past June, elevated his record to 4-2, and looks to advance further up the featherweight ranks in 2018.
Despite all of the setbacks he has endured throughout his life, he has overcome them all through hard work and perseverance. It has been the key to his success thus far, and it will be in the future.
“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.”