The vacant One Fighting Championship middleweight crown will be up for grabs at One FC 22 “Battle of Lions” on Nov. 7 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore; and undefeated Evolve MMA prospect Leandro Ataides would like nothing more than to end the nine-fight winning streak of Kazakhstani standout Igor Svirid in the main event and walk away as the organization’s first champion at 185 pounds.
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Ataides was raised in the way of many young Brazilians, training and competing in the three most popular national sports.
“Growing up for me was pretty much the same as any young kid back home: going to school, preparing for my exams and playing video racing games,” Ataides told Sherdog.com. “Of course, I was also training daily in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, too; I started when I was just 8 years of age. My mom spoke to me about it, and after my first lesson, I fell in love with the sport. Training in BJJ helped me in terms of being disciplined and made me a more responsible person throughout my years growing up. Aside from BJJ, I really enjoyed playing soccer, as well as training in capoeira.”
Ataides earned his black belt some six years ago under Wendell Alexander and shortly afterward was persuaded by his coach to try MMA. However, it was not difficult to convince Ataides to expand his combat sports skill set.
“I have always believed that the learning curve for martial arts is never-ending,” Ataides said, “and I wanted to learn more and continuously improve as a martial artist.”
His MMA career began slowly at first, with just three fights in the first three years. Ataides debuted with decisions over Victor Reis and Edvaldo de Oliveira but has not gone the distance in six appearances since. His career gained momentum when another one of his coaches, Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras, connected him with the Shooto Americas organization in his native Brazil. Once there, he picked up steam, sandwiching a technical knockout and a submission around a rear-naked choke finish on Alexandre Leao under the Spartan MMA banner.
Roughly two years ago while living and training in Jakarta, Indonesia, Ataides was introduced to Evolve MMA found Chatri Sityodtong, a Harvard University graduate and former muay Thai fighter.
“He invited me down to Evolve MMA to try out for the team,” Ataides said. “I guess he liked what he saw because Evolve MMA and the Evolve Fight Team is my new family here in Singapore. Training at Evolve MMA has been an absolute boost in all aspects of my game. I have the privilege to train everyday with world champions in muay Thai and boxing, [along with] other Brazilian jiu-jitsu champions [and champions in] wrestling, MMA and no-gi submission grappling.”
Ataides’ teammates at Evolve MMA include current Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors Rafael dos Anjos, Leandro Issa and Tarec Saffiedine, along with reigning One FC champions Ben Askren and Shinya Aoki. The 28-year-old subscribes to the iron-sharpens-iron philosophy.
“When you train with such elite fighters and coaches,” Ataides said, “there is no doubt that your abilities will only improve.”
With more than 23 years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training under his belt, Ataides is in his element when a fight hits the ground. However, the majority of his victories -- the latest was a 47-second knockout against Tatsuya Mizuno at One FC 15 in May -- have come via strike-induced stoppage. Ataides feels comfortable and confident, no matter where the fight takes place.
“I’m not too concerned as to how I finish my fight -- a win is a win,” he said. “However, I’m always looking to finish any fight fast. All my previous opponents have brought a unique set of weapons to the cage and all of them have their own strengths. I have nothing but the utmost respect for each and every one of them.”
With that same attitude and calm confidence, Ataides accepted the opportunity to compete for the inaugural One FC middleweight title. For many fighters around the globe, reaching the Ultimate Fighting Championship remains the pinnacle of achievement. However, Ataides sounds content with the home he has found.
“One FC is definitely growing very fast back home in Brazil, with quite a number of Brazilians competing; and we all come from the different cities in Brazil, so that’s always a good thing for the organization,” he said. “The people of Brazil are very passionate about MMA, and being able to represent your country and city is really a huge honor for any of us.
“I don’t even think about the UFC, to be honest,” Ataides said. “I am very happy fighting for One FC, the biggest MMA organization in Asia, and my goal is to win the One FC middleweight world championship title and remain its champion for a long time.”