Leandro Issa’s fighting career has taken him to places he could barely have imagined. He lives and trains in Singapore and has fought in cities all over the world, including Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Las Vegas, and Rio de Janeiro, but his next match-up will be in completely new territory.
“I was a bit surprised to be fighting in Germany. Fighting out of Evolve MMA in Singapore, I thought the UFC may have me fight more in Asia, but I have enjoyed the opportunities to fight in Brazil and Las Vegas. It doesn’t matter where I fight, I’ll be ready and will do my best inside of the cage.”
Issa’s last two UFC fights have been in his native Brazil. After nearly seven years training and living in Asia, returning to his native country to fight for the world’s biggest MMA promotion was a special moment.
“I have had the opportunity to fight for the UFC in Brazil two times; both were great experiences. I had a lot of support from the fans and a lot of friends and family were able to come. It had been a dream of mine to fight for the UFC in Brazil, so it was an amazing feeling.”
After back-to-back submission wins, Issa dropped a decision to highly experienced BJJ black belt Iuri Alcantara in his last fight. It was a setback, but one which the Brazilian believes he will benefit from in the long run.
“I learned a lot from the fight, fighting three rounds against a tough opponent. It was a great experience being able to compete against a tough guy for three rounds.”
Lapilus will also be looking to bounce back from a recent decision defeat. Both men hold stoppage wins over Yuta Sasaki and Issa has been studying some tape on the French fighter.
“I’ve watched some video of my opponent. He is a southpaw and I’ve incorporated that into my training a bit. At Evolve MMA, I get to train and spar with the best strikers in the world, Muay Thai world champions, and some of them are southpaws, so I feel ready and am hungry to fight. It will be a good fight.”
The UFC will only be putting on one event in Asia this year, meaning opportunities for Issa to compete on the continent he currently calls home are few and far between. That means lots of travel and he has already has his pre-fight schedule worked out.
“There isn’t that big of a time zone difference, so as soon as I reach Germany I’ll be able to adjust quite quickly and will be okay by fight night. I’ll arrive around six days before the fight, flying over with my head coach from Evolve MMA, Olympic wrestler Heath Sims. This will give me the chance to train a bit, get a sweat on, and get used to the jet lag to be ready for fight night.”
Over a year has elapsed since Issa’s loss to Alcantara. He has spent that time training and improving, patiently waiting to see what the matchmakers might have in store.
“It has been a year since my last fight, but I have been training every day at Evolve, improving under the world champion coaches. It wasn’t my choice to be out this long, but I finally got the call and I can’t wait to fight.”
Issa’s teammate Rafael Dos Anjos recently lost his UFC lightweight belt after being stopped by Eddie Alvarez. The Brazilian has been cageside to see a couple of his other training partners capture titles recently and sees it as a source of personal motivation.
“It was a great feeling to see my teammates, like Dejdamrong (Sor Amnuaysirichoke) and Angele Lee, win world championships. The whole Evolve fight team is very close, we are like a family and very close and support each other. When one of us goes into the cage it is as if we all do and when one of us succeed, we all share in the success.”
Issa has had more than his fair share of success. He’s gone from fighting in smaller Asian promotions like Martial Combat and Art of War to challenging for a ONE Championship title and scoring a submission win for the UFC in his home state. Next stop is the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg and the Brazilian will be hoping to secure a third win inside the Octagon.
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