That night, the 13-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion will collide with South Korean knockout artist “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won in a heavyweight mixed martial arts showdown.
The titanic clash is sure to grab the attention of everyone in the division – including ONE Heavyweight World Champion Arjan “Singh” Bhullar – and the man who gets his hand raised will enter 2022 as one of the top contenders for the gold.
Ahead of his return, “Buchecha” sat down with onefc.com for an exclusive interview and gave insight into what he learned from his first mixed martial arts bout, how he plans to beat the undefeated South Korean star, and much more.
ONE Championship: Your debut was very impressive. Take us back to that moment. How were you feeling about your first ONE event week, making the walk to the Circle, and the performance itself?
Marcus Almeida: Yeah, it was really good. It has been since 2019 without feeling the adrenaline before a match. I was curious to see how it would be with MMA because it’s something really new for me. But I was pretty calm in the fight week.
The day of the fight is the day I got really, really excited and really anxious about it. But when I walked to the cage, I felt like I was calm – calmer than I expected. That’s why I think I had a good fight like I did.
ONE: You’ve wanted to make your mixed martial arts debut for quite a while. How did it feel to finally do that, and did it live up to your expectations?
MA: It was good, I think. Of course, it was frustrating waiting so long. But at the end of the day, it was good because I had a lot of time in the gym. I had a lot of time to learn the game. And when it finally happened, it was like something unbelievable.
It gave me that feeling of, “Okay, I want to do this again.” And that’s what I’m doing right now.
ONE: What was a lesson you took from that first match that you can apply to your next one?
MA: I learned a lot of lessons, but one lesson that I learned is that it’s not jiu-jitsu. It doesn’t matter what I did in jiu-jitsu, what I accomplished in jiu-jitsu. It doesn’t translate to MMA. It’s a new sport.
I humbled myself, and I know that I’m really new in the game. So, it doesn’t matter how good I was in the jiu-jitsu world or a jiu-jitsu scenario. I’m feeling like a white belt in the [MMA] game, and I have my feet grounded.
I need to learn a lot, and I need to prove a lot. I’m never going to get comfortable in this game because it’s serious. You can’t make a mistake because you’re going to pay the price, and I learned that. So, I keep training hard. I don’t take days off, and I’m ready to go again.
ONE: You’ll be competing against “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won. What are your initial thoughts on him and what he’s been able to accomplish so far?
MA: He’s a great name. He’s a great striker and a dangerous southpaw. He just had a huge victory over Amir [Aliakbari]. That put him in a great spot in the organization.
For sure, it’s going to be a really tough challenge for me, but I don’t think that there is an easy fight in that division, anyway. Every name is a big name.
I have to be really, really aware every second of the fight because he has knockout power. And he’s an MMA fighter – he has a ground game and he has good wrestling. It’s not going to be an easy challenge for me. I know that.
ONE: Kang recently fought two strong grapplers and finished them both in the first round. What’s going to be different when he competes against you?
MA: He’s fought against good wrestlers, and he’s fought against some tough guys. But they didn’t use so much jiu-jitsu. And, I don’t know, maybe we have to see there.
I trust my jiu-jitsu more than his. That’s my biggest strength. But if I have to use my hands, I’m training a lot for that too. I don’t want to be one guy that has just one strength and just one weapon. So, I need to be able to fight in every scenario: wrestling, striking, and jiu-jitsu, of course.
ONE: After those two big wins, he’s considered one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division. If you finish him, where does that put you in the division, and will you look for a title shot right away?
MA: I don’t like to think too far ahead, you know what I mean? My next challenge is him, and I think it makes no sense for me to think past him because, after this fight, I’m going to really know where this can put me [in the heavyweight division].
But it depends on how it’s going to be with this fight. I don’t like to think too much about the future. It sounds like a cliche, but my only focus is him. And after that, I can think about the future. But right now, I’m just thinking about him.
ONE: What do you have to be the most careful about when you face Kang Ji Won?
MA: His hands and his speed because he has faster hands, so I think that’s something that I need to watch out for. And he’s got power. That makes any man really dangerous.
ONE: In a perfect world, what’s your ideal way to finish this match?
MA: In any fight of my career, if I can finish in the first round, that’s like a dream come true. I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to tell you, “Okay, I want to fight all three rounds and feel that experience.” No. Forget that.
In my perfect world, again, I want to finish all my fights in the first round. That would be the real perfect world. If I can finish in the first round by submission, it’s perfect for me.
ONE: There’s a lot of talent in this division. If you could test your skills against any heavyweight athlete in ONE, who would it be and why?
MA: I never think about that, if I’m being honest. Like, of course, I was training for “The Viking” [Thomas Narmo] and “Reug Reug” [Oumar Kane]. I was [previously] training to fight them. Maybe then, that would be something that I would start training for again. So if those fights happen, it would be interesting.