Leandro Ataides stakes a claim for the Middleweight title at ONE FC 22 on November 7, 2014 in Singapore. The heavy-handed BJJ black belt has shown himself a force to be reckoned with.
Ataides has won numerous Brazilian jiu jitsu competitions all over the world to cement his standing at a top-caliber athlete. When he turned his eyes to MMA, his successes remained stellar. Ataides’ record has remained a steady and pristine 9-0.
Ataides made his move to Asia with simultaneous career paths: he moved to teach at and train out of Evolve MMA in Singapore, and signed with ONE FC. The junction has been extremely successful for him, as he claimed back to back knock out victories in his two ONE FC matches.
On the cusp of his fight for ONE FC’s inaugural Middleweight Championship, Ataides shared his lengthy background in jiu jitsu, the circumstances of his steady development in MMA, and how he sees his future – including this title fight – will go.
Asia MMA: When did your jiu jitsu journey begin?
Ataides: I started training in BJJ when I was 8 years old because my mom pushed me to train, to pick up some martial arts skill. A family friend recommended that I should enroll myself into a BJJ class, so I started to train with Wendell “Del” Alexander (Nova Uniao Founder). I tried to pick up football skills too, but I realized it wasn’t my thing.
Asia MMA: You have KOs on your resume, so did you have any other base besides BJJ? What spurred you to fight professionally?
Ataides: My base has always been BJJ. I won three World Championships, five Brazilian Championships, one South American Championship and a few other national titles as well, but here in Asia I have focused a lot on learning and improving my striking capabilities, as well keeping my BJJ skill at its best.
BJJ is a sport which requires more resources, so I found myself spending a lot on food supplements, subscriptions, transportation. One of my coaches encouraged me to look for something more rewarding like MMA, where I could have more visibility, and so get better sponsors and support. When I got involved with MMA in Brazil I got excited. It was a new challenge I took up without regrets.
“I’ll look for any opportunity I can find to finish, standing or on the ground.”
Asia MMA: With your BJJ base and a black belt, would you say you’re a better grappler than a striker, and hence more comfortable in taking the game to the ground?
Ataides: I am definitely confident in my BJJ, but when I started to train in boxing and Muay Thai I felt there was potential to add skills to my game that could be further developed. I’m training hard for this, and I’m sure I can still develop a lot more. I’m always training to be prepared for everything, everywhere, anytime, ground or standing, it doesn’t matter.
Asia MMA: What brought you to Asia? How did you end up in Singapore at Evolve MMA?
Ataides: I was invited by a friend who lives in Jakarta, to help him with his academy. We initially thought of establishing a BJJ training academy in Indonesia since it was not a very popular form of martial arts there. Jakarta is a very short distance from Singapore, and there are many BJJ professionals here, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand my skills and experience with Singapore as my base. I have been living in Singapore since July 2013.
Asia MMA: This is your third ONE FC fight. You’re the main event and contending for the inaugural Middleweight Championship. What are your thoughts about this high-profile bout? Do you see your unbeaten streak continuing?
Ataides: I feel blessed to be part of this great event and I will do my very best to put up a beautiful show as should be expected from a title fight. I believe the results in my previous fights were the fruit of my dedicated training and long hard work with my training partners, therefore I can only expect to reap in my next fight what I have always sowed. Faith in God and hard work are key to my winning this fight.
Asia MMA: Can you describe that long hard work? What has your training camp been like?
Ataides: Long hard hours of BJJ, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and everything else you can think of. [laughs]
Asia MMA: As a larger middleweight, do you have to worry about your diet and nutrition?
Ataides: I love Brazilian barbecue and I can’t stay away from good meat, but jokes aside, I’m definitely taking my diet seriously and I’ll prepare myself very diligently to meet my weight and be in the best shape for the fight.
“I want to grab that title and hold on to it for as long as I can.”
Asia MMA: What do you think about your opponent, Igor Svirid?
Ataides: I don’t know him very well, but I respect him as a fighter and I hope we can put up a good show for everyone. Ultimately, each of us are in it to win it, and I’ll be doing my best in the cage as I’m sure he will be too.
Asia MMA: Other than your BJJ and striking potential, are there any other skills or intangibles you count as strengths?
Ataides: A mixed game that’s critical for a well-rounded fighter, lots of determination, and hard work.
Asia MMA: How do you see the fight playing out?
Ataides: I’ll look for any opportunity I can find to finish, standing or on the ground. I’m prepared for any situation that’s presented to me, as long as I can execute an outstanding finish.
Asia MMA: What was the most rewarding fight of your career so far?
Ataides: My best fight was in Brazil with Gameth (Edvaldo de Oliveira), a very good Muay Thai fighter, a dangerous striker. I was fighting for a title and had to improvise my striking to take him to the ground and play my game effectively. That was tough but I won by Unanimous Decision. My best fight was also my most difficult, because I felt challenged and I had to think out of the box to win. After that fight, I knew I had to keep improving my striking skills. I can say that my 9 consecutive wins have been very rewarding.
Asia MMA: Which MMA fighter are you inspired by most?
Ataides: José Aldo of course! He’s talented and a legendary fighter.
Asia MMA: What are your greatest achievements outside the cage?
Ataides: Outside the cage, I’m very happy to have had the chance to overcome a difficult situation – one faced by many Brazilians – being born in less than ideal circumstances in a poor area of the country, and to have reached the professional level in sport. This has encouraged me to help other people like me and to encourage them to fight for their dreams. I know that without God and the many friends He has given me, I would not have succeeded.
Asia MMA: What would you be doing if you were not a fighter?
Ataides: I would be probably working as an electrician because I studied this in the past. But after I got a few electric shocks, I thought I should try something else. [laughs]
Asia MMA: What are your career ambitions?
Ataides: First of all, I want to grab that title and hold on to it for as long as I can. In the far future, I hope to identify new talents and help them to become great champions.