The #2-ranked strawweight contender will face off against ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan in the main event of ONE: EMPOWER on Friday, 3 September, and she believes her all-around skill set is strong enough to claim the belt.
“Absolutely, this is my best moment. I’ve been training super hard – not only for this fight, but since my last one,” Nicolini says.
“Me and my team have worked together to do what I had to do, so I think I’m in my best shape and my best mindset.”
Nicolini, a 13-time BJJ World Champion, debuted in mixed martial arts 10 years ago and has amassed an impressive 4-1 record since joining ONE Championship.
Nicolini’s grappling reigned supreme that night, as she outworked Lee across three rounds. And though she thinks highly of Xiong, the Brazilian believes their World Title fight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium will play out in similar fashion.
“She has defended her title so many times, so I have a lot of respect for her,” Nicolini says of the Chinese superstar.
“What makes the difference this time is that she will face an eight-time [IBJJF World Champion]. She has had some really good fights, but she has never faced someone like me.
“I think maybe she has a good ground game, but I’ve been training [BJJ for 20 years]. I don’t think she is going to be able to handle my game. She will try her best and I’ll try my best — but I’m totally confident that my best is better than hers.”
- Xiong Turning ‘Fear Into Motivation’ Against Dangerous Nicolini
- All-Around Sporting Talent Jenelyn Olsim Found Her Calling In MMA
- Ritu Phogat Rejoins World Grand Prix, Full ONE: EMPOWER Card Revealed
Of course, the Vila Da Luta representative also knows that it won’t be smooth sailing against the reigning World Champion from China.
“The Panda” is a feared knockout artist who’s earned four of her six ONE Championship victories via strikes. With that in mind, the challenger is working hard to formulate a plan that will negate Xiong’s concussive arsenal.
“You need to make sure you don’t get drawn in and caught by her striking, and we’ve trained a lot to not get punched,” Nicolini says.
“Everybody knows I want to take the fight to the ground, so we have some strategies for that and how to not put myself in danger.
“For her to knock me out, she has to get close to me to punch me, so she’d better have good wrestling defense because if I get a chance, I’m going to grab her, put her down, and finish her.”
Given that Nicolini will be aiming for a submission and Xiong will be looking for a knockout, this matchup could hinge on the wrestling and clinch battles as each fighter tries to establish a dominant position.
It’s a matchup that could swing either way, and whoever can implement their tactics will give themselves the greatest chance of victory.
Nicolini certainly has the experience to follow through on her game plan, but she also believes her undying spirit will be crucial when the going gets tough.
“For two people to have a fight, you have to get some contact, and when they get contact, anything can happen,” the Brazilian offers.
“I know we both are really strong. She has her best [skills], I have my best [skills], and we are going to see whose is better. What she can’t stop is my desire. You know the whole world will be watching. This is the biggest motivation — to show the world what I can do.”
As a final motivating factor, Nicolini will be fighting to honor her late father, who died earlier this year.
The Brazilian star has an unflinching desire to make him proud, and his memory will help her push through any adversity that comes her way.
“After my dad passed away, the World Title fight brought me back. Instead of staying home and crying because he was not with us anymore, I just focused on the fight and got super motivated after that,” Nicolini says.
“So, for sure, this belt will be for him first of all.”