Leandro Ataides has a perfect professional record, which currently stands at 6-0, but extending it further will be no easy task because he is slated to face Tatsuya Mizuno at ONE FC: Rise of Heroes in Manila on May 2.
The Brazilian has taken on some tough opponents in his career to date, but recognizes that Mizuno represents a serious step up in competition.
“He is very tough, very experienced and very big for 185 pounds. In the past he was fighting light heavyweight and heavyweight and taking on some of the toughest guys in the world, so for sure he is very dangerous and I know this will not be an easy fight,” he said.
One intriguing element of this match-up is that Ataides is a second-degree BJJ black belt, while Mizuno is a third-degree black belt in Judo, meaning that both middleweights have at least one area of truly elite level excellence.
Ataides is well aware of his opponent’s strengths and has enormous respect for the man who will be standing opposite him on May 2.
“For sure his Judo is very good, but he also has very dangerous striking and is strong with submissions, so I cannot underestimate him, but I work with world champions in boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, and BJJ at Evolve MMA, so I feel I will be prepared for everything,” he said.
After running up a 5-0 record on the highly competitive Brazilian scene, Ataides moved to Asia, spending a few months teaching BJJ in Indonesia before being invited for a trial by Evolve MMA. He was selected to join the fight team and a few months later made his ONE FC debut.
He would make a serious statement about his title credentials with a knockout win over a French opponent who had never previously been stopped at ONE FC: Warrior Spirit, but Ataides is anxious to play down talk of a potential title shot.
“I am ready to fight for the belt, but I have a very tough opponent in my next fight, so I am only concentrating on that. I do not want to look any further into the future, but like every fighter, my aim is to be a champion one day,” he said.
While on paper Ataides’ 6-0 record is patently superior to Mizuno’s tally, which currently stands at 12-9, the Brazilian is adamant that he is the underdog going into their match-up at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think everybody expects him to win because he has been in many big fights in Asia and has fought with Cro Cop and Babalu. I have never lost, but I have not fought any fighters like this yet, so I don’t have such a big name, but I have the best trainers and coaches in the world at Evolve MMA and if I can do the gameplan they make for me then I am confident I can win this fight,” he said.
Another big name on Mizuno’s resume is Melvin Manhoef, who he submitted at Dream 15, and despite a couple of recent defeats, the Dutchman is very much in the mix at 185 pounds. Ataides admits he has been following the career of the legendary striker and would be open to a match-up in the future.
“Right now I am not thinking about Melvin Manhoef because I am busy preparing for a fighter who already beat him, but Manhoef has dangerous stand-up and is an exciting fighter to watch. If ONE FC want me to fight Manhoef in the future then why not? But I am not thinking about this now because I have a very tough fight next month.”
Ataides won the Copa de Mundo in 2005 and knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of BJJ competition, but now he is fully focused on his MMA career and proving himself to be the best middleweight in Asia.
“Before there were some big promotions in Asia like Pride and Dream that were very famous, but now there is only ONE FC and everyone knows it is the biggest in Asia and I want to prove to all the people that I am the best in Asia. That is my goal.”
Ataides can go a long way towards realizing that goal by beating Mizuno on May 2. If he can prevail against the experienced Japanese Judoka then a ONE FC title shot should surely beckon.
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