MMA: Nunes unfazed by hostile crowd

Istela Nunes at the Amara Hotel yesterday. She has been training for seven months to face Angela Lee in the co-main event for One Championship's Dynasty of Heroes fight night. The two-time muay thai world champion is so confident that she says the cr
Istela Nunes at the Amara Hotel yesterday. She has been training for seven months to face Angela Lee in the co-main event for One Championship's Dynasty of Heroes fight night. The two-time muay thai world champion is so confident that she says the crowd might be cheering for her in the end.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Brazilian says wild support for Angela Lee will give her 'more energy and will' on Friday

On Friday, Brazil's Istela Nunes will likely be booed by a strong crowd turnout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. And she will be loving every jeer directed towards her.

For she is the opponent of One Championship women's atomweight world champion Angela Lee in their mixed martial arts (MMA) title bout, the co-main event in the Dynasty of Heroes fight night.

The other main event will feature One Championship welterweight world champion Ben Askren facing the undefeated Agilan Thani of Malaysia.

Lee, 20, is a wildly popular figure here with her Korean-Singaporean parentage. She also fights for the local-based Evolve MMA team.

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Nunes, 24, remains unfazed by her daunting task of beating the crowd favourite though. In fact, she believes the jeers will give her "more energy and will".

"I have had experience fighting in hostile arenas before," the two-time muay thai world champion said, referring to her past muay thai bouts against local favourites in Thailand.

"In the end, maybe the crowd would be cheering for me, because I'm going to give them a good fight.

"I'm 100 per cent confident."

With both fighters boasting unbeaten professional records (Lee is 7-0 while Nunes is 5-0), many believe that this will be Lee's toughest battle yet. Previously, Japan's Mei Yamaguchi was the only opponent who forced Lee to win on decision last year.

"Angela has not fought against anyone like me before," Nunes said.

"She is going to try and grapple (with me). People are maybe scared of my striking, so they will try and grapple me.

"I've been fighting against grapplers forever, so I'm used to fighting around that."

BRING IT ON

Angela has not fought against anyone like me before. She is going to try and grapple (with me)... I've been fighting against grapplers forever, so I'm used to fighting around that.

ISTELA NUNES, on her game plan in the One Championship atomweight bout against crowd favourite and world champion Angela Lee, who is of Korean-Singaporean parentage.

Such hard-nosed determination had served her well ever since she started out with capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts, on the streets of when she was just 11 years old.

Eventually, her fights caught the eye of a muay thai instructor, who invited her to train in the Thai martial art. It was an astute switch, as Nunes racked up 52 wins en route to her two world titles.

She then made the switch from muay thai to MMA in 2015, citing comfort and revenue as the main attractions for her move.

Nunes gained One Championship's attention after video clips of her triple head-kick knock-out victory against Karoline Martins went viral on the Internet in April last year.

"I go with the feel of the fight and go from there. It depends on what happens during the fight," she said.

"I feel very comfortable standing up, but I don't think too much about what I'm going to use more, I go with the flow of the fight."

After her victory against Yamaguchi last August, Nunes took a month off to rest and resumed training after for this title shot.

"I've been training for about seven months actually, getting ready for this fight against Angela," she said.

"I'm really prepared and am going to throw her down. Everyone should come and watch the event, it's going to be a great show."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Nunes unfazed by hostile crowd'. Print Edition | Subscribe