Brazil’s Leandro Ataides may be preparing for action on the opposite side of the world to his home town, but the former ONE Middleweight Title challenger has a former champion to topple.
Ataides will take on former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday, 12 May knowing that victory could propel him into a title bout with reigning champion Aung La N Sang later in the year.
Rio-based Ataides has been training in Beijing, China ahead of the contest, and he’s relishing the opportunity to experience cultures far away from his homeland.
Growing up in Brazil, Ataides says he was lucky to have a strong support group around him.
“My inspiration came from my mum,” he told ONE Championship ahead of his bout.
“She is a real warrior, and she always took care of me.
“Sometimes my mum did not have money for my BJJ tournaments, so she would sell something so I could do it, or she would always find a way,” he recollects.
“There were times when she took me by the hand to look for sponsors, and she would say, ‘This is my son, he wants to succeed in BJJ, can you sponsor him?’ She wanted the best for me.”
Encouraged by his mother, Ataides’ dedication to success in Brazilian jiu-jitsu helped keep him away from a life of crime and gangs, and eventually saw him achieve a dream by becoming a five-time Copa do Mundo champion. After achieving all he could in BJJ, he then decided to parlay his skills in the cage.
His successes also owed a lot to his father, who was a constant inspiration, despite passing away during his childhood.
“I learned a lot from my father too. He always did the right thing, and showed me a lot,” Atadies said.
“In my heart, I can see him looking down at me from the sky.”
Now a prominent member of the ONE Championship roster with designs on world championship gold, Ataides also has hsi sights set on a different achievement.
“I want to give people hope, and tell them that they can do whatever they want in life,” he explained.
“You just need one percent of hope, and you can do whatever you want. I have seen a lot of my friends turn to drugs or gangs, but others say they want to be like me – to travel and compete.
“If I can be the person who makes them believe in their dreams, then that is good, because hope can be hard to find in Brazil.”
Having risen from a humble background in Brazil to the upper echelons of the ONE middleweight division via five BJJ world titles, Ataides wants to be a shining example to youngsters with dreams of their own.
And if he goes on to defeat Bigdash on 12 May, that story will only become even more inspirational.
Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.
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