Two-time BJJ No-Gi World Champion Bruno Pucci may have stumbled in his last bout nearly ten months ago, but he continues to have a forward-thinking mindset, and plans to take a huge step forward in his career on Friday, 30 June.
The 26-year-old Brazilian known as “Puccibull” will return to the cage to square off against Filipino knockout artist Jimmy Yabo at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION, live from the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
“Of course you can never predict these things, but you always have to be positive,” he says. “If you think positive, then positive things will happen to you. I never think about losing. When I close my eyes, I believe I have all the tools to win this match.”
The power of positivity has brought him far in both his life and his career.
After being diagnosed with pediatric growth hormone deficiency at the age of 10, Pucci was given daily injections to counteract the problem. The doctor also recommended him to pursue sports as a way to help his condition. He tried many different physical activities such as skateboarding and swimming, but none of them captured his interest.
In 2004, however, he discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu at a neighborhood gym, and fell in love with the discipline’s technical grappling finesse. He committed to it, and following his mantra of “train hard and work hard,” eventually became a BJJ No-Gi World Champion in 2009 and 2010.
While experiencing success on the mats, “Puccibull” always had his eye on mixed martial arts. In fact, he skipped the amateur circuit and went straight to the professional ranks in October 2011.
He won his first three matches — including his promotional debut against Bashir Ahmad at ONE: CHAMPIONS AND WARRIORS in September 2013 — by rear-naked choke. By this time, he had joined Singapore’s famed Evolve MMA.
After the Brazilian suffered his first defeat to Major Overall in May 2014, he was unfortunately sidelined by injury. He had to spend the next 18 months recovering from an eye surgery and extensive back surgery to repair two herniated discs. However, he made a successful return to the cage in December 2015, submitting Dutch-Indonesian Anthony Engelen with his trademark rear-naked choke.
It appeared as if Pucci’s troubles were over, but he received another setback in September 2016, when Nuerdebleke Bahetihan knocked him out in eight seconds flat at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS.
“I hit him with the punch, and then he hit me back, and I just blacked out,” he recollects. “People were like, ‘Well, you did this wrong,’ but I learned a lot. I learned that I could be more patient.
“I would say that is my problem. I am a very impatient person. Even in the cage, I am impatient. I want to get things done quickly, so that was my fault. Every fight is a learning process, and that is what happened.”
Pucci, now 4-2, expects to demonstrate what he has learned from that fateful experience, and showcase some new techniques on 30 June. He will also need to exercise some patience as he clashes with Yabo, a man nicknamed “The Silencer” because of his quiet demeanour and incredible knockout ability.
A taekwondo black belt, the 36-year-old Filipino trains out of Mactan Combat Sports, and holds a professional record of 5-4 (1 No Contest) with every single victory coming by way of knockout. Competing in ONE Championship, he knocked out Ahmad — a common opponent — in 21 seconds at ONE: TRIBE OF WARRIORS,
“The Silencer” is looking to make some noise in Yangon and break his two-fight skid, and his Brazilian counterpart knows he has the tools to do it, too.
“His heavy hands, his boxing background, and him being a counter striker makes it dangerous, because if I want to grapple him, I need to get in and close the distance. It is a danger zone for me,” Pucci acknowledges.
“Of course, I believe in my grappling skills — that is his weakness and where I am strong. With this fight, it is who can get in there, perform better on that night, and stick to their game plan.”
Pucci expects to be the man to perform better on that night. He is motivated to put the eight-second knockout loss far behind him, and concentrate on building a campaign towards the ONE Featherweight World Championship. The past setbacks are just learning experiences that will make him better.
“Bad things happen for a reason. I lost before, and it was not a nice feeling. But it made me even hungrier, and I learned from my mistakes,” he admits. “I know what I should be careful of, so I am very optimistic about this fight.
“I am working hard. I think hard work pays off. That is what it has been like my whole life, and it will not be different now.”