Michelle Nicolini in her match against Maui Jiu-Jitsu’s Penny Thomas.
Michelle Nicolini made a big splash this year the Brazilian jiu-jitsu Pan-Ams in Carson, California last weekend. At only 118 pounds, the BJJ black belt fighter from Brazil scrapped her way to the finals in the black belt open weight division, where she came up against Luciana “Luka” Dias. Their encounter was a ten-minute roller coaster ride where each woman held the lead at various points and easily earned the fitting title of being the most exciting female match of the weekend. Nicolini attempted a sweep in the closing ten seconds but it was not enough and ended up losing the most important female match in the tournament by just one point.
We thought it was time to introduce Nicolini to more of the BJJ community and were able to get her to answer a few questions by email.
FightWorks Podcast: When did you get your black belt? How long did it take you?
Michelle Nicolini: I got my black belt in July, 2006, six years after I started to train.
FightWorks Podcast: How old are you now?
Michelle Nicolini: I’m 26 years old.
FightWorks Podcast: Where did you get your black belt / under who?
Michelle Nicolini: I got my black belt after the World Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, after I won the tournament as a brown belt. It was then that Robert Drysdale gave it to me.
FightWorks Podcast: Where do you train now?
Michelle Nicolini: My team is Brasa Clube de Jiu Jitsu. I moved to Vegas last week and I don’t have a gym to train in yet.
FightWorks Podcast: What part of Brazil are you from? Rio?
Michelle Nicolini: No, no I’m from Itu, a litle city near Sao Paulo (I would like to send a kiss to my friends and my family ok?)
FightWorks Podcast: Do / did you study in university? If so, what topic?
Michelle Nicolini: I stopped in second year. I was studying nutrition. I couldn’t train, work and study. I needed work to go compete in tournaments. So my option was to stop the university.
FightWorks Podcast: Discuss your preparation for the 2008 Pan-Ams. Where did you train, and who helped you get ready?
Michelle Nicolini: I was doing physical preparation with Lineu Leite in my city in Brasil, Itu, 3 times a week. Twice a week I swam and every day or sometimes twice a day trained BJJ in Itu or Sao Paulo with Leo Vieira and Demian Maia. Many people help me in Itu and Sao Paulo and I’m so thankful for their help. Robert was in Vegas but he helped me all the time with his words. I had a nutritional preparation from Marcelo Ferro. He helped me too.
FightWorks Podcast: Talk about your match with Luciana Dias for the black belt open finals.
Michelle Nicolini: I had others good fights to remember but this with Luca was great. I was focused, and looking at the scores all the time. I was listening to what Robert and Leo told me. When they told me there were only 30 seconds remaining I was down by 1 point. I swept Luciana but I couldn’t maintain it and she won. I feel good though because I know I fought well.
FightWorks Podcast: What makes BJJ so important to you?
Michelle Nicolini: I always liked fights… and Robert always believed in me. So BJJ was getting important in my life in different tournaments and classes. I have a class with children in Itu, and they believe in me and I believe in them. We have a lot of “Small Samurais”.
FightWorks Podcast: What accomplishment in BJJ are you most proud of?
Michelle Nicolini: My world titles since blue belt.
FightWorks Podcast: Who are your favorite BJJ fighters to watch, both male and female, and why?
Michelle Nicolini: Robert Drysdale is my favorite because I know how much he trains. Leo Vieira is small and fights big guys. Demian Maia is so dedicated. Jacare (Ronaldo) is phenomenal. And Hanette Staack because I always saw that as a person and a great fighter she is humble. And I admire this in people, in Robby, in the guys that I know.
FightWorks Podcast: What are your goals in your BJJ career?
Michelle Nicolini: I want to fight the World Championship this year, to do good matches. And next year Abu Dhabi. I dream about that. Later I hope to have a class with many girls, and to make many winners.
FightWorks Podcast: Many top level BJJ fighters go to MMA at some point. Do you have any intention of fighting MMA?
Michelle Nicolini: No, I don’t have intention to change my sport. I love BJJ and submission. Only these. No MMA.
FightWorks Podcast: Do you have any sponsors you would like to thank?
Michelle Nicolini: Yes, I would like to thank KORAL KIMONOS. I would like to say thanks for the opportunity because I know how difficult it is to have a sponsor. Also, my mother-in-law who gave me English classes for many years. And my parents that always help me. Robert Drysdale always helps me. Thank you people. I love you!!