Michelle Nicolini is motivated ahead of her anticipated clash with ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
This Friday, 12 July, the eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion will collide with the Singaporean in the co-main event of ONE: Masters Of Destiny.
The two have a shared history, both as teammates and as competitors. Those memories are now fuel for Nicolini’s desire to settle an old score with Lee at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
During their first meeting – a grappling contest in Macau — Nicolini remembers getting the better of the future atomweight queen with her BJJ prowess.
“We [faced each other] in Macau in a grappling competition. I ended up getting a submission on her,” the 37-year-old Brazilian recalls.
“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.”
Nicolini then relocated to Singapore in 2016 to work with the world-renowned instructor team and athletes at Evolve.
While she was preparing hard and learning from the gym’s martial arts World Champions, she paired up with teammate Lee in Muay Thai sparring on one occasion.
Admittedly, the Sao Paolo native’s striking skills were not as refined as her opponent’s, and Lee was able to turn the tables on her in the sparring session.
“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,” Nicolini confesses.
“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.”
Three years have passed since their last tilt, and the Brazilian is now a different competitor than she was back then.
Nicolini believes if Lee chooses to underestimate her striking abilities, it will be at her own folly. However, if she could have her way, then she would want their strawweight mixed martial arts encounter to play out on the ground – where she is at her best.
“I think I have much more experience in my grappling game than her because I’ve been doing this [my entire career],” she stated.
“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.”
Now that she finally has the chance to meet Lee once again, Nicolini believes both competitors will want to prove a point and she expects nothing but the best from her rival.
“I don’t want to lose,” the Brazilian states. “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.”