Eduardo Novaes started MMA late in life, but brings decades of grappling experience into his professional debut on Friday (local time). The 36-year-old is taking on local favorite Muhammad Aiman at ONE: Throne of Tigers in Kuala Lumpur.
Novaes is a BJJ black belt at Evolve MMA in Singapore. He originally moved to Asia as a coach, but soon became interested in testing his skillset inside the cage.
“I’d tried sparring during Evolve’s fighter’s program and I became interested in developing a more well rounded game of MMA that was not just BJJ. But the true desire to compete happened when I saw ONE Championship in Singapore, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Navaes hails from Brazil, but has traveled all over the world teaching BJJ. He spent time teaching in Europe before settling down permanently in Singapore.
“I was in Singapore on vacation, visiting my old friends Teco Shinzato and Almiro Barros. At the time, I was teaching in Switzerland, but I had to get a second job because I was barely getting by. I was very attracted to Evolve MMA’s facilities and, thankfully, Teco and Almiro helped me get a job as a BJJ instructor.”
Although Novaes has only been training in MMA for around a year, he has been competing in martial arts since his teenage years.
“I started training BJJ when I was about 15 years old after seeing Royce Gracie fighting in UFC 1 and 2. The first major title I won was the São Paulo State Championship, when I was 15 or 16. I won all five fights by submission and it was also then that I knew BJJ was in my blood. In 2004, I got my black belt from my gym in Santos, Integração Jiu-Jitsu.”
While Novaes has decades of grappling experience to fall back on, his opponent is much more seasoned in MMA terms. Aiman is a former amateur champion and the Brazilian has plenty of respect for his stand-up game.
“I believe he’s a good striker, but I’m not worried about that. In addition to his one pro win, he also has seven wins on the amateur level, so he’s tough.”
Although he’s never competed inside the cage before, Novaes thinks preparing for a BJJ match is very similar to the process involved in getting ready for an MMA fight. The 36-year-old is also confident he will be ready to go the distance if required.
“Aside from techniques, of course (preparations for) both are pretty similar. If anything, BJJ gave me the stamina to last through some potentially long bouts.”
Novaes is the latest in a long line of BJJ black belts from the Evolve MMA camp to sign with ONE Championship. In the past, Zorobabel Moreira and Leandro Issa have both secured title shots, while Alex Silva is now potentially just one win away from challenging for the belt in his division.
The Brazilian is confident and believes he will be in peak condition when the time comes to step inside the cage for the first time.
“I’m more excited than nervous, because I’m confident of my preparations during the training camp at Evolve MMA. My training partners pushed me incredibly hard. The hardest part is the training, not the actual fight.”
Novas is taking on an opponent who is 14 years younger than him and has won eight fights out of nine in Kuala Lumpur across his amateur and professional careers. It represents a tough debut, but the Brazilian hopes that several decades of BJJ experience coupled with an intense training camp will give him the impetus to succeed.
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