Since Istela Nunes hit the professional martial arts scene, the Brazilian prodigy has quickly, and impressively, defeated top-notch competition. Now, on Friday Night, 26 May, she will get the opportunity to add another title to her still-blossoming combat sports legacy.
The unbeaten Brazilian knockout artist will challenge “Unstoppable” Angela Lee for her ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship in the main event of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 26 May.
“Angela Lee is a good opponent. I think it will be a good fight,” the 24-year-old says. “I know her strength is her ground [game], but I see openings on the ground and on her feet, the same way I have openings, so I cannot say that she is good or bad at something. I am going to impose my game.”
Nunes had quite the sensational Muay Thai career, as she racked up 52 victories en route to becoming a two-time World Champion in Thailand. However, after a lack of quality opposition back home in Brazil, she accepted an invitation to expand her horizons by picking up grappling at a Curitiba gym in 2015.
Since making her professional debut later that October, the lifelong capoeirista has experienced a marvelous run in the sport. She holds an immaculate 5-0, 1 NC record, and owns a ‘triple head kick’ highlight reel knockout that went viral in 2016.
That impressive win, along with her fascinating combat sports background, paved the way for a title shot against Lee. Although the Brazilian possesses an impeccable stand-up game, she has been training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well, and is confident enough in her abilities should the fight hit the canvas.
“My biggest strength is obviously on my feet,” Nunes begins “Not that it is a weakness, but I started recently in jiu-jitsu. That does not mean anything – by the time she gets to the ground, she will have gone through a lot on her feet.”
However, as Lee has previously demonstrated, she has turned her striking into an area of strength. After opening her professional career with five consecutive submission victories, she defeated Yamaguchi for the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER in May 2015.
Following an eight-month break, the Singaporean made her first title defense against previously-unbeaten contender Jenny Huang at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM in March. The “Unstoppable” one utilized her newfound stand-up game, which she re-vamped under the watchful eye of the Muay Thai World Champions at Evolve MMA, to defeat her Taiwanese challenger via TKO in the third round.
Now Lee is scheduled to duel with yet another unbeaten challenger in Nunes, and one who can match her striking ability and, perhaps, overcome it.
In preparation for the title fight, the Brazilian knockout artist is training under head coach Rafael Vinicius, and is receiving further grappling instruction from the likes of Pedro Rocha and Pedro Rizzo. She believes this squad, appropriately nicknamed ‘Team Nunes,’ will provide her with the tools necessary to make history.
“I will be the first Brazilian woman to have a belt in ONE Championship,” she states. “That is really good for Brazil, really good for me and [really good for anyone] who is with me — my trainers, my family, [and] everyone. I think it is very important.”
That parlays into her ultimate goals, which are to build a legacy and inspire others.
“I just want people who think they will not be able to fulfil their dreams to see that you can never give up, and always believe that you can fulfil them. It is only up to you whether you want to or not.”