Brazil’s Leandro “Brodinho” Issa is making the most of his second stint in ONE Championship and has his sights set on a World Title shot.
The 34-year-old returned to the promotion last year. He promptly knocked out Toni Tauru in August, then dominated Dae Hwan Kim three months later.
And now he’s all set to face Guam’s Roman Alvarez in Yangon, Myanmar at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR on Friday, 29 June, in a bout he hopes will propel him into a title match later in 2018.
A veteran of both the cage and the jiu-jitsu mat, Issa admits things could have worked out very differently for him if he did not discover martial arts when he did.
Issa grew up in the municipality of Ubatuba, where he found himself running with the wrong crowd and getting into regular fights on the streets.
“My hometown is a small town. There really was not a lot to do there,” he says.
“The kids just hang out on the street or go to the beach, and when you do not have anything to do, you tend to find yourself getting into trouble. That is what happened to me.
“I was always making trouble so I could get into fights. I was not doing well in school, and they wanted to kick me out because I was always making trouble.
“Then I started jiu-jitsu, and that helped me out a lot.”
Issa’s mother sat her wayward son down and demanded he find a better way to spend his time. With his older brother already training in BJJ, he decided to join him and learn the art.
“One day, my mother told me I had to start doing something other than hanging out on the streets. She asked me what I wanted to do, so I told her I wanted to start training jiu-jitsu,” he recalls.
“My older brother started jiu-jitsu before me, and every time he came home from class, he would show me the techniques that he learned.
“I remember, back then, Royce Gracie was a star. We would sit and watch him in action, and then I went to the gym and tried out my first class. I really liked it, and I have never stopped training since.”
Once he immersed himself in the art of BJJ, Issa’s life began to transform for the better. That effect is something he’s seen not only in himself.
He has also seen it in the students he trains at Evolve MMA in Singapore – where he now works as a coach, as well as training as a professional athlete.
“Jiu-jitsu changes different aspects of your life,” he explains.
“When I started, I got more disciplined, I became more humble, and more focused – but it can change people in different ways.
“Some people who start jiu-jitsu feel better about themselves – they get in shape and they release their stress.
“For me, it was more about the discipline, because when I was young, I was a crazy guy. I was not afraid of anything, so jiu-jitsu helped me, hugely.
“You can see when people start to train jiu-jitsu here – some are shy and some are out of shape.
“But they get more confident, and they start to eat better and get in better shape. They become happier people.”
He will look to make himself a happier person with a victory over Alvarez this Friday in Yangon.