ONE FC’s featherweight division is becoming a more intimidating place by the day with the likes of Jadamba Naruntulalag, Rob Lisita, and Yusuke Kawanago having signed on since the start of the year, but Bruno Pucci is determined to emerge as the number one contender.
The Brazilian is a No Gi Grappling world champion who holds a black belt in BJJ and he made his ONE FC debut last year, defeating Pakistani MMA pioneer Bashir Ahmad with a rear naked choke in Jakarta.
Next up for Pucci is Major Overall at ONE FC: Honor & Glory on May 30. The Brazilian is looking forward to fighting in his adoptive home of Singapore for the first time.
“I’m excited to be fighting in Singapore because I’m based there and it will be more accessible for my friends and students from Evolve MMA to come support me. My dad will also be coming for the first time to support me, which will really give me an extra boost!”
The win over Ahmad took Pucci’s record to 3-0 with every single victory coming by way of a rear naked choke. So far he has been able to reproduce the sort of grappling skills that saw him win numerous international tournaments and competitions inside the cage and is hoping this streak will continue.
“It’s going to be a real challenge to keep fighting for submissions in MMA because opponents know how to defend and it’s more difficult to submit them than it is in BJJ. A great example would be Roger Gracie, who made all the black belts look like white belts in BJJ, but in MMA, it’s not so easy to submit even a white belt,” he said.
Pucci was initially slated to face Brace MMA 145-pound champion Martin Nguyen, but the undefeated Australian got an infection that prevented him from training and was forced to pull out of the fight.
The Brazilian admits he knows absolutely nothing about his new opponent, who is 4-1 with his only loss coming at a ONE FC show in 2012.
“I don’t know anything about him. ONE FC just informed me a couple days ago about the opponent change because Martin Nguyen is injured, but I am ready for anything.”
There are a lot of fighters with BJJ backgrounds transitioning to MMA, but they sometimes struggle to adjust to using their submission skills inside the cage. In theory, coming from a No Gi grappling background should give Pucci an advantage, but he says he still believes in the importance of training in a Gi.
“I’ve always been training in a Gi throughout my BJJ career, even when I was training for the No Gi world championships. If you wanna be a great grappler, it’s very important to have a good foundation in BJJ and train in a Gi before you start No Gi grappling. So for me, it makes no difference whether you are a BJJ practitioner or a No Gi grappler in terms of transitioning to MMA.”
Pucci is one of ten BJJ black belts on the Evolve MMA team in Singapore and says he has been working to improve every aspect of his game in preparation for this fight.
“I have been working with Heath Sims, who is our main coach and has experience in wrestling at the Olympic level; Orono Wor Petchpun, who is a Muay Thai world champion, has also been helping me a lot in my striking; and I train with a good mix of experienced BJJ black belts like Leandro Brodinho, Herbert Burns, Leandro Ataides; and I practice my grappling with ONE FC fighter Eddie Ng a lot too,” he said.
With so many new signings in ONE FC’s 145-pound division, some of whom, like Nguyen and Kawanago, arrived as the reigning champions of other organizations, the path to a title shot for Pucci looks longer than ever.
The belt is currently the property of Koji Oishi but the Brazilian says he is happy to bide his time and is not looking beyond his next opponent.
“I always dream big and of course I’d like to be the ONE FC champion ultimately, but for now I want to focus on this fight, and if I win that I’ll be one step closer to a title fight.”