Whether it’s grilling a ham on the barbeque for the Australian summer Christmas or carving up a turkey with all the trimmings whilst snowflakes are gracefully falling from the night sky, there is a whole array of traditions that people all over the world adhere to around the holiday period. For the most part, the common denominator in all customs is that it’s a time for reflection, gathering with loved ones and exchanging gifts with those around you.

Issa (Evolve MMA)

Issa (Evolve MMA)

Whilst most of the world has been celebrating the festive season, Leandro Issa hasn’t been able to indulge. However, the sacrifices he has made over the past few weeks haven’t been for nothing. After all, the 27-year-old black belt now eagerly awaits his UFC debut on Jan. 4 at UFC Fight Night 34.

“I have to forget everything about Christmas and New Year and focus on my training,” Issa revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It’s okay, though, because after the fight I will go on holiday with my family and we will celebrate then, back in Brazil. Even if I was put in a fight on Christmas day, I will fight. As a fighter, I know that I have to be ready no matter what.”

Issa was on the verge of another bantamweight title shot with Asian-based MMA powerhouse ONE FC. However, he was met with the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of competing in the UFC, and that was something he just couldn’t pass up.

“Since I started in MMA, it was my dream to fight in the UFC,” Issa admitted. “That was my big goal, and now I get my opportunity and I am thankful that I have it. I have been training very hard, and I plan to make a good show. I’m just focusing on this first fight and then I will take it step by step after that.”

With the UFC continually expanding into different worldwide markets, the Jan. 4 event marks the first time the company has touched down in Singapore. Being that the country is humid year round, fighting in the climate that Singapore offers isn’t an experience that many can attest to being comfortable with. Luckily for Issa, though, Singapore is where he is based, and whilst others may complain of soaring temperatures and humidity, you’ll never be able to wipe the smile off his face.

“It’s good that I get to fight in my hometown of Singapore. There are a lot of MMA fans in Singapore and I know that they will be there to support me in my debut,” Issa said. “The weather here is very different, but I am used to it, so it won’t be a problem for me.”

Issa (ONE FC)

Issa (ONE FC)

Like many others who are part of the Evolve MMA team based in Singapore, Issa has picked up his life to move across the globe so that he can compete out of the one of the world’s best fight camps. It’s not an easy move to make, but it was one that he just couldn’t resist.

“A friend of mine came over here to Evolve and he stayed for one month, and he really enjoyed it,” Issa explained. “He asked me to come over to train there, and I came over for two months and then I was asked to stay. It’s a great place to train and live, and I am very happy here.

“It’s a very different culture. I really like the way of life, though, and I like the life that I have here now. I love teaching BJJ at Evolve. I like to change people’s lives through teaching jiu-jitsu. I know that it can make their life better because it did so to mine. I try to share everything that I know; I don’t hide anything. We have a lot of black belts at Evolve, and I am always trying to better myself as well as teach others. [Growing up,] my older brother would show me some techniques at home. I used to like the techniques and I always looked up to Royce Gracie, who was using the techniques to fight much bigger opponents, and that really inspired me to compete.”

No matter what day of the year it is, when that contract is signed, Issa is ready to fight. Although he may have to wait a couple of extra weeks until he can indulge, the best gift that he could get for himself would be a win in his UFC debut. He isn’t going to let any amount of extra trimmings get in the way of that.

Leandro would like to thank Evolve MMA, his family and friends, his fans and would like to extend a special thanks to Victor Cui for allowing him to chase his dream. Follow Issa on Twitter: @brodhinoissa

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.