Michelle Zonato Nicolini was born on January 5, 1982, in São Paulo, Brazil.
She began training in Capoeira at the age of 14 but gave it up three years later. She then decided to concentrate on jiu-jitsu and trained with Robert Drysdale. He gave her all belts, including her black belt.
Michelle Nicolini surprised everyone in 2010 by competing in four weight classes beyond her normal weight class in the ‘Mundials’ after joining Rodrigo Cavaca’s gym in Santos.
She explained the strange occurrence by saying that she was prepared to compete in her usual light-featherweight division. But she changed her mind after one of her Checkmat teammates made a friendly challenge to compete in the same division and win the final together.
In her first mixed martial arts match, Nicolini was slated to compete against Cristina Meija at Inka FC 11 in June 2011. She won the match against her opponent by first-round submission.
Michelle quit the Cavaca Fight Centre at the end of 2013, citing a “difference of opinions” with respect to Cavaca’s leadership.
Additionally, she came in first at ADCC World Championship in 2013.
Nicolini was supposed to take against Lanchana Green at M4TC 13: Nemesis in February 2014. She ended up winning against her opponent by first-round submission.
In October 2014, Nicolini was slated to compete against Norma Rueda Center at Legacy FC 36. Nicolini ended up losing the match via unanimous decision, and it was the first professional loss of her career.
In July 2016, it was made public that Nicolini had joined the Singapore-based ONE Championship. She was slated to compete against Mona Samir in November 2016 at ONE Championship: Defending Honor. She ended up winning the match against her opponent by first-round submission.
In April 2017, Nicolini was slated to compete against Irina Mazepa at ONE Championship: Kings of Destiny. She ended up winning the match against her opponent by first-round submission.
In March 2018 at ONE Championship: Visions of Victory, Nicolini competed against Iryna Kyselova. She ended up winning against her opponent by first-round submission.
At ONE Championship: Masters of Destiny in July 2019, Nicolini was slated to compete in a strawweight match against the current ONE Women’s Atomweight champion Angela Lee. Nicolini won the match by a unanimous decision despite being the underdog going into it and being the victim of multiple uncalled fouls.
In September 2021, Nicolini faced current ONE Women’s Strawweight World champion Xiong Jingnan. She was unable to submit her opponent to the ground and lost the striking exchanges, resulting in a unanimous decision loss.
In September 2022 at Polaris 21, Nicolini was slated to face Ffion Davies for the promotion’s first-ever bantamweight title. Ashley Bendle took Davies’ place when she abruptly withdrew from the game. Nicolini beat Bendle by a split decision to claim the Polaris bantamweight title.
In April 2023, Nicolini took part in the IBJJF Master International Championship – Europe. There she won gold medals in the lightweight and absolute classes at Master 2.
In the major IBJJF gi championships at black belt level, Nicolini is an 8 times World Championship champion, 3 times Pan-American Championship champion, 3 times European Championship champion, and 3 times. Brazilian Nationals champion
In the major IBJJF Nogi championships at black belt level, she is a 4 times World Nogi Championship champion, 2 times Pan Ams Nogi Championship champion, 2 times Euros Nogi Championship champion.
Additionally, she has also won four ADCC medals: one gold, two silver, and one bronze.
Michelle Nicolini also became the first female athlete to earn a gold medal at the black belt level in both gi and no-gi at all four major championships.