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After displaying 'warrior's heart,' Leandro Ataides ready to begin title run at ONE Championship 50
On the surface, Leandro Ataides’ run with Asia’s ONE Championship might seem to be a bit of a nightmare. But the Brazilian middleweight said he’s enjoyed his opportunity and plans to reward his bosses’ investment in his future.
“Asian fans enjoy seeing a warrior’s heart,” Ataides told MMAjunkie in his native Portuguese. “I can also say that I fight because I love to do it. I’ve been able to show my heart in ONE, which is a very large promotion in Asia. Now that I’m more experienced, I have a lot more to show. They’ll see the lion in me.”
Ataides was undefeated when he made his way to ONE Championship in 2013, and he quickly rattled off a pair of first-round knockout wins under the company’s umbrella, rewarding them for the invite. But Ataides has since dropped three consecutive outings, leaving his contender status in doubt.
The 30-year-old Ataides doesn’t want to make excuses, but he does believe his results can be explained – and he says he’s working hard to make the adjustments necessary to correct his shortcomings.
“Losing is never good,” Ataides admitted. “I’ve been training hard since losing my first fight. “My second loss, to Aleksei Butorin, was very tough. He has very heavy hands.
“As far as my loss to Marcin Prachnio, we didn’t agree with the judges and are trying to overturn it. Whoever saw the fight knows I didn’t lose. It was a screw job. But I don’t get angry. I’m here to fight. That’s life. I’d like to change the decision loss to Marcin, or at least get a rematch against him.”
For a rematch to be in the cards, Ataides (8-3) will first need to get past Mohamed Ali (10-10) at Friday’s ONE Championship 50 event, which takes place at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Manila, Philippines, and streams online as a pay-per-view event.
Ataides admits he doesn’t know much about his Egyptian foe but plans on showcasing his grappling in the contest.
“I didn’t have much information about my next opponent,” Ataides admitted. “Regardless, every opponent should be respected. Of course we both strategize, hoping for the best outcome. I know he’s a big guy, with good boxing, and heavy hands. He’s dropping down in weight. I’ll be ready.
“He has the same name as my own idol, Muhammad Ali. But once we step into the cage, only the better man will be left standing. Despite putting in a lot of time into my boxing with Jose Aldo’s coach Isidoro Nicolas, I’ll look to dominate with my jiu-jitsu, which is my best weapon.”
Ataides knows his back is against the wall. Even in Asia, where it seems fans focus more on warrior spirit than wins and losses, results do matter to a degree. But Ataides believes he’s got something special behind him this time around.
“Dec. 2 is my daughter’s birthday,” Ataides said. “Also, about five months ago, I lost my older sister. I’m sure she’s looking down on me. And my son was just born on Sept. 28. So, this victory will be dedicated to my family, who’s always by my side.”
Much can be forgotten with an impressive win at ONE Championship 50. Ataides knows the hype that surrounded him upon his arrival to the promotion. And after a few frustrating setbacks, he hopes to show he’s still deserving of the praise.
“I hope to always put on a great show,” Ataides said. “I like the Philippines. Recently, an opportunity came up to teach there. I love Asia and its people. Who knows – maybe I’ll live there one day.
“Most fighters want to be in the UFC. My focus is to win at ONE, so I can be the best fighter in Asia, before setting my eyes elsewhere. I aim to be the champion at ONE.”