Multiple-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Yuri Simoes made his mixed martial arts debut in late 2020 with ONE Championship, but the result was not what he had hoped for with his transition. The talented Brazilian grappler lost to Fan Rong and was sent back to the drawing board.
At ONE: Full Circle on Friday, February 25, he makes his return to the Circle to show the world his first bout was merely an aberration against Daniyal Zainalov.
Simoes battled numerous injuries going into his ONE debut but thought he could overcome the limitations. Instead, he was unable to be at his best when he needed to be the most.
“I was coming from a very serious surgery for my ACL, MCL, on my knee. That happened at ADCC 2019. Just two days out after I got the offer [for Fan Rong], I had a major stinger on my neck. I lost almost 80 or 90% of the strength of my left arm,” said Simoes.
“I tried to endure it. I couldn’t wrestle, and wrestling is very important for my game to take the guy down. Other than that, my opponent was really tough, props to his game plan and everything he implemented in that fight. I think I grew, and I learned a lot from that fight, that’s for sure.”
But a loss is not the end of the world, especially early in an athlete’s career. They can serve as important learning experiences that prepare them for the future, and that is something Simoes was grateful for after his ONE debut.
One focus for Simoes has been on his mental preparation. Although he has years of competing at a world-class level in BJJ, the Brazilian mentioned that sometimes he was too in his head leading into matches.
“It’s funny because I have been that kind of guy that was overthinking,” said Simoes.
“I’ve been doing a lot of my mental preparation with a very good sports psychologist, and now I’m a lot more focused on what I bring to the table, what I can do. And I’m not really thinking about, oh, you know, is he coming up with this or that, I’m expecting to fight the best version of [Zainalov].”
Learning from the loss speaks to Simoes’ growth as an athlete. He was not negative about the loss and only focused on the positive of what he learned from that experience.
The Brazilian noted that he learned to be more patient inside the Circle. It was one of several positives from his first performance that he plans to put to good use against Zainalov.
“Yes, he’s a very powerful opponent. I have a lot of respect for people from the Caucasus mountains in Russia. Whether it’s Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, all those places, there are a lot of warriors there. I trained with some of those warriors at AKA,” remarked Simoes.
“I know he has a good karate or kickboxing style. He likes to kick a lot. He’s good on his feet, but I shifted the focus on what I’m going to do on my game, on the things that I have to focus on for myself.”
The American Kickboxing Academy representative wants to show fans one thing in his second outing on ONE’s global stage by focusing on his own game.
“Dominance,” said Simoes.
“I’m trying to establish my name in this new sport. I am very relentless when I want something when I choose something, and this is something that means a lot to me. I want to show that in the fight, and I want to make sure I secured that win above anything. He has the experience on his side. I have the grappling on my side. I think each fight is unique, and I’m coming with my A-game to try to get this done. And we’ll see what happens.”
The multiple-time BJJ World Champion is not just looking for the submission win. Simoes will not be afraid to seek out the knockout should the opportunity present itself inside the Circle.
Simoes wants the finish to reinsert himself into the discussion in the middleweight division, especially with key middleweight bouts on the same event as Aung La N Sang and Vitaly Bigdash round out their trilogy, and Reinier De Ridder defends the ONE Middleweight World Championship against Kiamrian Abbasov.
“I’m a competitor. Any match after this would be great. Getting this win is really everything that I’m focusing on. If I can be active in MMA this year, I would love for that to happen. MMA is my priority now, so I would really like to get more fights,” stated Simoes.
“I think it’s too soon for me to be calling out names, and I would feel silly doing that.”
But he will not need to call out Zainalov.
Simoes has the date and the opponent for his return, and now it is about seizing the moment that will happen at ONE: Full Circle.
ONE: Full Circle will air live and free on Friday, February 25. The lead card begins at 5:00 a.m. EST/2:00 a.m. PST on ONE’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and ONE Super App.
The main card will begin at 7:30 a.m. EST/4:30 a.m. PST on ONE’s YouTube channel and the ONE Super App.