Leandro Issa saw a run of seven straight wins stopped by Soo Chul Kim at ONE FC: Rise of Kings last October when the Korean won their rematch by second round TKO to become the first ever ONE FC World Bantamweight Champion.
Deep down the Brazilian, who has been training and fighting in Asia for the past three years, knew he had to lose eventually but having his winning streak broken by an opponent he had already beaten once was particularly hard to take.
“It was big disappointment because I already beat him one time before and I am sure I can beat him again but in MMA anything can happen and at 135 lbs there is many strong fighters in ONE FC. It is the biggest MMA organization in Asia and all the best fighters in Asia are here so to be undefeated is very difficult, maybe impossible,” said Issa to Fighters.com.
While Issa is desperate for a third fight with Kim he will have to work his way back into contention before being offered a second title shot and that journey begins on April 5th with a fight against Yusup Saadulaev at ONE FC: Kings & Champions.
The Russian was invited to join the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix on the back off a spectacular KO win over Japanese veteran Hideo Tokoro at DREAM: Fight for Japan but was eliminated at the first hurdle by Kevin Belingon.
Belingon had already lost ONE FC fights against Masakatsu Imanari and Soo Chul Kim, who had both been beaten by Issa, and the Brazilian believes this demonstrates just how competitive the bantamweight division is,
“For sure there are some very strong fighters at this weight, many people in Brazil believe Bibiano Fernandes is the best bantamweight in the world and Ueda and Imanari are two of the best fighters in Japan. It is a very tough division and to be the champion will not be easy but it is still my dream and I will work hard to make it come true,” he explained.
Issa is a member of the Evolve MMA Fight Team where he trains alongside Shinya Aoki and Eddie Ng who will both be on the card at ONE FC: Kings & Champions. The camp has a reputation as being the best in Asia and the 29 year old feels that the level of training he receives in Singapore could give him a key edge over the competition in the bantamweight division,
“I am BJJ black belt but my Muay Thai and wrestling has been big improvement since I came here because there are many trainers from Thailand at Evolve MMA who are champions in Muay Thai and Heath Sims who was Olympic wrestler,” stated Issa. “I am more of an all round fighter now, I would never have been able to learn so many things in Brazil and every week I am improving more.”
Although Issa and Saadulaev both suffered setbacks with the losses at ONE FC: Rise of Kings they still have outstanding records with the Russian 9-2-1 and the Brazilian 10-3. Fernandes is believed to be in pole position for a title shot with the winner of the ongoing Bantamweight Grand Prix also certain to be in contention but Issa knows that winning this fight could put him right back in the mix,
“Saadulaev has nearly same number of fights as me and nearly same number of wins so I think it is a good fight, not an easy fight,” he concluded. “After my last fight I felt very bad for my team because my training was very good but I did not perform to my potential, this time I will not make the same mistakes.”
ONE FC: Kings and Champions is taking place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 5th and will be headlined by a lightweight title-fight between Kotetsu Boku and Aoki.
Interview courtesy of Evolve MMA
PHOTO CREDIT: EVOLVE MMA