Michelle Nicolini is a world-class grappler, and she’s embracing that role.

Nicolini (6-2) challenges Jing Nan Xiong (15-2) for the strawweight title in the main event of ONE Championship: Empower, which takes place Friday and streams on B/R Live. In what’s being viewed as a striker vs. grappler matchup, ADCC champion Nicolini doesn’t mind if people are underestimating her striking.

“Maybe, but this really doesn’t bother me because I know what I’ve been training,” Nicolini told MMA Junkie Radio. “And like I said before, I was supposed to fight Jing Nan Xiong more than a year ago then the pandemic started, and we had to cancel. So I was training already for a long time then I was training for this fight since last year. I don’t mind if they underestimate me. It doesn’t matter.”

That being said, the Brazilian sees herself scoring a submission against Xiong just like she has in all but one of her professional wins.

“I think a choke,” Nicolini said.

Having already conquered the grappling world as an eight-time jiu-jitsu world champion and ADCC champ, 39-year-old Nicolini has an opportunity to add a major MMA title to her resume after a late start to her career.

“I had a really good time when I was competing in jiu-jitsu or ADCC or Abu Dhabi,” Nicolini said. “All the tournaments, but then I closed down the page and for me to restart something new when I was already like 30-plus (years old), I think I’ve reached it. I feel like it’s something completely different. I challenged myself every day, and I don’t have time to waste, so I need to be more awake all the time, and I feel much more mature now for this. It’s a big difference for me doing jiu-jitsu and MMA.”


How to watch ‘ONE Championship: Empower’ – Fight card, start time, live stream


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