In 2014, Bruno Pucci suffered the first defeat of his MMA career and subsequently sustained a serious injury in training. It was not a good year for the Brazilian, who would be away from the ONE Championship cage for 18 months.
Last December, Pucci made a successful comeback and, as he prepares to fight Musu Nuertiebieke at ONE: Unbreakable Warriors, the 26-year-old is just happy to have put this injury nightmare behind him.
“After a year and a half of frustration and recovery, I’m really relieved and glad to be doing what I do best. This is my life and it is what makes me feel alive.”
Pucci returned to the cage to defeat Anthony Engelen with a second-round submission in Manila last December. He was pleased with his performance and particularly happy to have emerged unscathed.
“After such a long break from fighting, I was very happy with my performance and that I was able to finish the fight without any major injuries.”
Pucci has been training and competing since the age of 13. He won gold medals at the No Gi Grappling World Championships in 2009 and 2010 and made his pro MMA debut in 2012, running up a record that currently stands at 4-1.
The BJJ black belt is used to being active, so the injury, which Pucci doesn’t want to disclose the nature of, had a profound effect on him.
“It is difficult for any professional athlete to be out for a year and a half, especially when you have been and need to be training almost every day. It was particularly difficult for me, as it happened in the beginning of my career, and I felt that I’ve still got so much to achieve. Now that I’m back, I want to be as active in the cage as possible.”
Next up for Pucci is Nuertiebieke, a Chinese featherweight with a 5-1 record. There isn’t much footage of him, but the Brazilian has done his research and knows what to expect.
“I’ve watched some of his fights and he seems like a good grappler. I think there will be some nice exchanges on the ground.”
That would suit Pucci nicely because he’s a BJJ black belt and two-time No Gi Grappling world champion. However, he says he’s been working on every aspect of his game in order to prepare for Friday’s fight.
“I’ve been working on my striking with Kru Yod. He is an awesome coach and has trained MMA superstars like Georges St-Pierre. I’m also working on my wrestling with US Olympian Heath Sims. I also get to sharpen my BJJ with UFC fighter Leandro Issa and ONE superstar Eddie Ng, as well as all the other world champions at Evolve.”
It will be Pucci’s first fight for ONE Championship since the promotion outlawed weight cutting through dehydration, but the Brazilian is still comfortable in the featherweight division.
“I will be staying in the featherweight division. This will be my first fight with this new regulation, but so far so good. I’m feeling great in this weight category.”
Pucci will be looking for his third ONE Championship win when he faces Nuertiebieke in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night (local time). His sole defeat came at the hands of Major Overall in 2014 and the Brazilian says he learned a lot from that experience.
“At the end, I think the loss is good for my career, as I’ve learnt to become a better martial artist.”
Learning is something Pucci has been doing a lot of. He moved to Singapore in 2012 to join Evolve MMA and has been training there ever since.
“I’m really grateful to be able to learn from the best. I feel that I’m improving every day. I have learnt and grown so much as a mixed martial artist from having the opportunity to train under so many world-class athletes and world champions at Evolve MMA. I’ve learnt to put other aspects like striking and wrestling together with my grappling.”
Pucci might be developing into a well rounded mixed martial artist, but you only need to glance at his record to see where the featherweight’s greatest strength lies. His four wins have all been by way of rear-naked choke and he is a specialist at taking an opponent’s back and sinking in his hooks.
It’s something he will be looking to do at the Stadium Negara on Friday and Pucci is hoping to put his injury nightmare behind him with a second straight ONE Championship victory.
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