By Caoilte de Barra
Judo Black Belt Nell Ariano swapped his Olympic dream to pursue MMA, and the 2022 European Championships saw him win his first continental medal in the sport.
Representing France at the competition in the heavyweight division, Ariano was one of three gold medalists for the nation. And after suffering a loss in the quarter-finals of the World Championships, he was thrilled to take home gold after making some adjustments and winning three bouts in as many days.
“It’s just amazing. After my first experience in the IMMAF Worlds did not go the way I wanted, it feels great to come back and bring the gold home.
“We put a lot of time in training to try and understand how MMA works, how you win, how you lose, what the judges see, what you have to do to get the win. So, I really think in that way, and I worked a lot to make the little improvements I needed to win this gold medal.”
His success in Judo was incredible. However, he believes this move to MMA was the right choice and prefers it to Judo.
“MMA is full of emotion. Full of stress, but if you control it, there are a lot of beautiful things to feel inside the cage and outside after. So yes, I’m really glad that I made this choice and that I am an IMMAF fighter now.”
Throughout the week, Ariano’s girlfriend was by his side, along with his trainer, to support him as he pursued gold. An experience that meant a lot to him, despite the stress of competition.
“It means a lot because we are a team. So, it’s just like an accomplishment that everything went well, and we got the goal home. I’m thankful that they could come to see me, to watch me, even if it’s a bit stressful. But yes, in the end, it is a pure moment of joy.”
Having competed in IMMAF for the majority of his MMA bouts to date. The 27-year-old explained how vital these tournaments have been for his development as an athlete entering the sport.
It’s really important because there is a high level in this type of competition,” and you see a lot of styles that help you to grow as an athlete for your future MMA career. It’s really important for me, I think, to do some amateur bouts before going pro, and IMMAF is a really great organization with a lot of high-level fighters, and it’s all positive at the end of the day because we all grow and get better and better.”