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‘I Wanted To Be A Fighter Like My Father’ – How Bruno Chaves Made His Lifelong Dream A Reality

Sep 22, 2022
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Bruno Chaves has combat sports embedded in his DNA, and he’ll carry that pedigree into his ONE Championship debut on Thursday, September 29.

That evening, the Brazilian will showcase his life’s work to a worldwide audience when he faces Iranian slugger Iraj Azizpour in the ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals at ONE 161: Petchmorakot vs. Tawanchai.

Their showdown will serve as one of the co-main events on the main card, and the 6-foot-5 striker is ready for the massive opportunity at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Before he begins his quest for the tournament’s prestigious silver belt, find out how the man nicknamed “Mohamed Ali” reached the world’s largest martial arts organization.

Eyes On The Prize From An Early Age

Chaves was born in the Niteroi suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lived until he was 6 years old.

When his parents separated, he split his time between his birthplace and Maringa in the south, where he spent most of his time with his father. 

Meanwhile, he grew up with four sisters – two paternal and two maternal – and looks back on his childhood fondly. Although neither of his parents had much, they both worked hard to shield him from hardships.

The 30-year-old recalled:

“My father worked as a security guard and my mother as a bartender and receptionist. We have always lived on the edge, and their lives were very difficult. However, I remember them taking care of me in such a way that this difficulty never came to me.”

Chaves’ father was an old-school Vale Tudo (also known as No Holds Barred) fighter in their native Brazil, competing as early as 1995.

As a result, the youngster was introduced to martial arts almost immediately.

This, along with his other sporting endeavors, made Chaves a popular figure at school, though he was also eager to remain grounded and approachable. 

He said:

“I was well-known because I fought, played basketball, and also because I was always nice to everyone. I already had ‘fame’ as a fighter, but I was never arrogant or anything like that. I was a normal kid.

“My dream was to be what I am today. Since I was little, I always said I wanted to be a fighter like my father.”

Starting With ‘The Gentle Art’

Chaves started to learn martial arts informally from his father at the age of 4, but he took up his training in earnest when he was 6.

Despite now being known as an elite striker, he began with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Brazilian art of capoeira before transitioning to kickboxing. 

The heavyweight said:

“I’ve always been involved. The environment I frequented was the fighting academies.

“In 2006, my father started teaching at Menega’s gym – my first teacher. There he had kickboxing and Muay Thai training. They had a ring, and because I was the son of “Master Junior,” they were always challenging me to enter in the ring.”

Chaves finally accepted that challenge, and while his first match didn’t go according to plan, it was the start of his successful competitive journey.

He said:

“One day, I went up and gave everyone a hard time. A month later, I wasn’t even training in the sport much with the team, but my master, Menega, had the brilliant idea of putting me to fight in an amateur event inside the academy. I ended up losing on points, but it was a very good fight.”

Almost Ended Before It Began

Despite his promising future, an incident during Chaves’ teen years nearly ended his rise to the top before it truly got going.

But ultimately, he believes his martial arts training helped him survive. 

The Brazilian explained:

“I have this strong connection with jiu-jitsu due to an accident I had when I was 14 years old.

“I was hit by a truck while riding my bike to school. I fell under the truck and he kept going, but thanks to a hip escape, I managed to get out before he went over my chest.”

The young Chaves was still badly injured in the accident, although it could have been much worse.

Fortunately, he had used the maneuver to squirm free and received a new lease on life.

He said:

“I was hospitalized for almost 20 days. Thank God, even though it was a big scare, it wasn’t something that serious.”

“I spent a lot of time in the hospital, then time in a cast. I did physical therapy, and then I was brand new.”

Getting Closer To His Goal

As the years passed, Chaves competed in kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing, BJJ, and MMA.

Eventually, he caught the eyes of internationally recognized fight teams, which helped him carve out a proper career for himself. 

He said:

“I received an invitation from ‘Minotauro’ (Rodrigo Nogueira) to be part of the professional team of Team Nogueira in 2013. It was the first time that I was actually on a professional path.”

Chaves spent some time at the iconic Brazilian outfit training alongside the likes of Anderson Silva, but when he returned to Maringa, another opportunity presented itself.

He recalled:

“In 2018, I was helping two friends for an MMA fight, and one of them, Everton Ninja, invited me to audition [for a kickboxing event] at the request of his master Julio Borges. First in the city of Curitiba, and then in Holland.”

“After proving that I could fight at a high level, I signed with this new team, Hemmers Gym, led by my trainer and manager, Nick Hemmers.”

Reaching The Top

Now on board with the legendary Hemmers Gym, Chaves has risen to new heights in kickboxing.

He’s put together a stunning 24-1 record, which earned him a spot in ONE Championship and the colossal ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix.

First up, Chaves hopes to reach the final and claim the silver belt – but his big dreams in the organization extend much further.

He added:

“I want to conquer the heavyweight belt in kickboxing, and then, if the opportunity arises, fight and challenge for the MMA belt.

“Of course, I also want to earn money and fame, but obviously I want to please ONE fans. Fans stop by to watch us, so I think it’s only fair to give them something good back.”

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