Istela Nunes: The Story From Capoeira to UFC

LockerRoom Team
11 July 2023

Istela Nunes is a Brazilian MMA Fighter who currently fights in the UFC.

Humble background in Brazil

Born in the municipality of Pau dos Ferros, located in the Rio Grande de Norte state of Brazil, Istela Nunes grew up in a modest household. Her mother worked as a cleaning lady, while her father pursued his passion as an artist-craftsman. With her older and younger brothers, Istela enjoyed an active childhood filled with sports and cherished moments with her family.

At the age of five, Istela's father enrolled all three siblings in capoeira, a traditional Brazilian martial art. Although she loved Capoeira, at the age of 10, Istela transitioned to another discipline. Through her mother's connection with an instructor, Istela discovered Muay Thai, and it quickly became her new passion.

How Muay Thai changed her life

As she entered her teenage years, Istela faced bullying from a male gym mate. Rather than seeking revenge, she used the experience as motivation to improve her Muay Thai skills. Three months later, at the age of 17, she had her first professional bout and fell in love with the sport.

Istela's dedication to Muay Thai took her on a remarkable journey across the globe. With 52 victories and only four defeats, she earned the prestigious WMF and WMO Muay Thai World Titles. Proudly, she became the first Brazilian woman to be crowned a World Champion in Thailand.

However, achieving such success required sacrifices. Istela spent countless nights away from her family, often sleeping on mats and enduring financial hardships. She remembers the days of choosing between lunch and dinner due to limited resources. Despite these challenges, she remained committed to her training, attending multiple sessions each day.

Transition to MMA

While Istela continued to improve her Muay Thai skills, she faced a roadblock in her career. The lack of elite opponents in her country led her to seek a new challenge. Making a bold decision, she left behind her striking-focused career and embraced the world of mixed martial arts (MMA).

In 2015, Istela relocated to Curitiba, where she began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, grappling, and other disciplines necessary for her transition to MMA. Later that year, she made her professional debut and quickly built an impressive record of 5-0, with one no-contest.

Now on the verge of superstardom, Istela credits her family as her biggest supporter throughout her journey. Despite her decision to move away from home, her family has always been there for her, offering unwavering encouragement.

With her family's support and a drive to continually challenge herself, Istela Nunes stands as a testament to the power of determination and perseverance. Her inspiring journey serves as an example to aspiring martial artists worldwide.

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