As Michelle Nicolini prepares for her upcoming showdown against ONE Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee, she is reminded of past encounters that have helped motivate her for this contest.
The eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion will face Lee in the co-main event at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY next Friday, 12 July, but the history between these two athletes actually goes back several years.
Their first meeting took place during a grappling tournament where Nicolini remembers facing off with the future World Champion before getting the better of her during the competition.
Failure has fueled 8-time BJJ World Champion Michelle Nicolini's inspirational rise to the ????!????: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/onemastersofdestiny19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, July 2, 2019
“We [faced each other] in Macau in a grappling competition. I ended up getting a submission on her,” Nicolini recounts.
“I don’t remember exactly, but I think I pulled guard and then got the sweep. I tried an armbar, she defended it, and then I attacked her foot and I got the toe hold.”
The next time Nicolini ran into Lee was in 2016 when she relocated to Singapore to work with the world-class team of coaches and athletes at Evolve.
While she had some mixed martial arts experience before she arrived, the veteran grappler was learning many of the aspects of the sport for the first time.
In one of her early days training there, Nicolini was paired up with Lee in Muay Thai sparring. As hard as she tried to keep up, Nicolini was still very much a rookie while Lee was already a seasoned veteran.
You either TAP or take a NAP when BJJ hall-of-famer Michelle Nicolini ????’s in a submission! Will the Brazilian beauty be worthy of a World Title shot if she overcomes Angela Lee on 12 July?????: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/onemastersofdestiny19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, July 3, 2019
“I think because I went to my first [mixed martial arts] training over there, and she was already famous and everything, I thought we could be friends.
“When I have new girls coming to train, I’m not going to beat them up in the first round, you know? I would like to get to know the girls training a little bit. Maybe we can be friends and help each other.
“Angela, I don’t know if she did it on purpose, but she beat me up a lot – like, really bad in Muay Thai, and it was a very new sport [for me]. After that, I didn’t want to be friends.”
Nicolini believes that Lee may underestimate her striking skills in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia because of her success in that encounter all those years ago.
If her opponent comes into the match overconfident, she will be happy, because she says she is far from the mixed martial arts novice she met three years ago.
However, she makes no secret that she would prefer the match to play out in her world – on the mat. Few women in the history of BJJ can stack up to Nicolini, and she welcomes the opportunity to test Lee on the ground just like she was tested in their Muay Thai sparring session in 2016.
Although she respects “Unstoppable’s” grappling credentials, she doubts they can match hers.
“She also has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. I don’t know what [she is] going to bring to the fight, but I’m ready for all the situations. She fights very hard with good heart,” Nicolini says.
“I think I have much more experience in my grappling game than her because I’ve been doing this [my entire career].
“We have a plan A, B, and C, but what if [her plan] doesn’t work? I think she gets frustrated. I think I will always be one step ahead.”
Wherever this match plays out, the Vila Da Luta representative believes that this is a contest fans will not want to miss.
The Sao Paulo native has wanted to face Lee in the Circle for some time, and because they are meeting now, there will be some extra pressure that will bring out the best in them both.
“I knew it would happen. I just didn’t know when and where, but I’m very happy to take the fight,” says Nicolini.
“I don’t want to lose. She doesn’t want to lose. I also lost my last one, and she lost her recent one, so we are both going to put on a show.”