Leandro Ataides has already fought for the ONE Championship middleweight title once. That was in 2014 and he lasted less than 20 seconds against Igor Svirid.

It would be the start of a three fight losing skid for the Brazilian, who had never been beaten up to that point. He bounced back to win his next three, but the problem is it took Ataides nearly three years to do it.

He has only fought three times in the last four years after pulling out of a title fight against Aung La Nsang in 2018. But Ataides, who fights at ONE: ‘Warrior’s Code’ on Friday, says he has been fit and ready and is hoping to finally win the belt in 2020,

“Actually I never stopped with my training, I was preparing for any call from ONE Championship. I really want to be the champion and I hope the next fight will be a title shot,” he said.

Devastating strikes

Ataides is a BJJ black belt. But four out of his five ONE Championship wins have come courtesy of a stoppage due to strikes and he has a devastating right hand and loves a flying knee.

He’s also been knocked out twice under the promotion’s banner but the manner in which these fights have all ended underlines just how entertaining the Brazilian can be. An Ataides fight is very rarely dull.

On Friday he faces Reinier de Ridder. The South African might be undefeated but Ataides says he will be happy to leg his opponent dictate where the fight takes place,

“I can let him choose how the fight will go, striking or on the ground. He is a good fighter, that’s why he hasn’t lost a fight (and) I can see his ground game is better than his striking game.”

Natural home

Ataides has fought eight times for ONE Championship but has yet to score a submission win. Given his BJJ credentials this is a surprising record but the Brazilian is still very confident in his ground game,

“My background is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I am a world champion, so I have tried to work more on my BJJ ground game as it feels like home, it is natural for me. The fight can end in the first round by my ground game.”

Ataides could never be accused of being reluctant to engage in a striking match. He will launch himself at opponents using either that sledgehammer of a right hand or his trademark flying knee.

So it is no surprise to hear that he has been sharpening up his striking ahead of Friday’s fight,

“Also, I have worked on my boxing skills, so I guess it is going to help me to finish the fight. I want to show what I did, how I trained.”

His title match with la Nsang in 2018 might never have materialized. But the Burmese middleweight still holds the title and Ataides will be hoping to make up for lost time by winning the belt this year.