Lucas Lepri: “When you work this hard and then win, it’s exciting”

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Lucas Lepri cleaned up in the lightweight division of the 2010 No-Gi Worlds last Sunday after having done the same last year, and he was thrilled. “I feel very proud because this is my second No-Gi Worlds win,” Lepri says, “When you train a lot and work this hard for one event and then you win it, it’s very exciting. I’m so happy. The guys I fought were very good, the Worlds are very tough to win.”

This has been a very good year for Lepri. He won the lightweight division at the 2010 European Open in Portugal, closing out with Michael Langhi. Then he and Langhi closed out the Gi Pan in California together. “Michael took the win because last year I took first place.” At the 2010 Gi Worlds, he took third place and he just won gold at the No-Gi Pan in New York and the No-Gi Worlds on Sunday. “I’m so happy with my results,” he says.

Lucas Lepri submits Lucas Leite. Photo: Luca Atalla.

Lepri, who flew in from New York City for the tournament, had three matches on Sunday. In his first match, he won with a choke from back mount. “I tried to take him down but he escaped, and then I tried to submit him a couple times but he blocked me,” Lepri says, “After about five minutes, I took his back and then applied the choke from the back… the mata-leão.”

In his second match, he faced Philipe Della Monica from Gracie Barra. “I took his back and submitted him from behind,” he says. After going two for two with the rear-naked choke, Lepri entered the finals ready to go and prepared to win. “I fought Augusto Mendes (Soul Fighters),” he says, “He was winning the match. He got the takedown, and then, at around eight minutes, I took his back and finished from the back again.” Lepri pulled a hat trick – he submitted his three opponents with a choke from back mount three times.

“I train that move every day,” he says, “I practice it over and over and do the drills so that it’s automatic,” Lepri says, “But sometimes it’s a risk. You can take a person’s back, but if the guy escapes, you go on bottom and the guy goes on top and gets points for the sweep.”

That’s what happened to Lepri in the 2010 Gi Worlds, and he was really disappointed. “I lost because of a sweep,” he says, “I was fighting Celso Vinicius from Gracie Elite Team. I tried to take his back and he escaped and took out my hooks. I was on the bottomand he stayed on top, swept me, and took two points. Then I tried to sweep him and take his back, but he escaped. I finished the match behind by two points.”

Lepri says the guys in the lightweight division are really tough. “There are a lot of really good fighters in my division,” he says, “They are all very technical and strong. All the fighters train a lot, so we all know how hard we work and how much energy we expend to try and win tournaments. The emotion is very high.”

One interesting fact about Lepri is that he easily fights and wins at two different weight divisions: lightweight and middleweight. Most players will gain or cut weight to try to get an advantage to win their matches, but Lepri just roams between the two divisions without much thought. He fought at the 2008 No-Gi Worlds in the middleweight division and took second place. “I lost to Daniel Moraes by one advantage point,” he says. Last year, he fought at the No-Gi Worlds and the No-Gi Pan but changed to lightweight and won both. In 2010, he won the No-Gi Pan at middleweight and the No-Gi Worlds at lightweight.

Lepri usually fights in the lightweight division and tries to keep that weight, but it’s hard for him. “Every tournament I have to cut weight,” he says, “I cut four to five pounds.” But Lepri feels very comfortable in both divisions. “I can fight at lightweight or middleweight,” he says, “I’m short, so if I fight lightweight, I have a better chance. Middleweight guys are taller and that can be more difficult, but sometimes I don’t want to cut the weight and so I just fight at middleweight. And sometimes I fight at middleweight just in no-gi.”

It’s nice to have that kind of flexibility in your Jiu-Jitsu game. “I’m very flexible for fighting either,” he says, “I can gain weight or cut it. Both divisions have really tough guys. I get good fights in either division.”

As for his no-gi game, Lepri says he likes gi better, but feels his game is more suited to no-gi. “I don’t train too much no-gi,” he says, “But I think my game is very good for it. When I sign up to fight no-gi, I still train with the gi. I think my game has helped me with the transitions. I like to apply the takedowns, I play more half-guard, and the transitions are good for me. This has helped me a lot.”

After the No-Gi Worlds Lepri hung around California to hold a couple seminars at Paragon BJJ. He conducted one in Hollywood on Wednesday and the other is in Santa Barbara on Thursday. “If anyone wants to come, they can contact Ronald at (213) 308-1205,” Lepri says.

At the end of the week Lepri’s flying back to New York to resume his teaching and training at Alliance New York City. He’s going to take a bit of a rest until the beginning of 2011 when he will begin his hard-core training regimen for all the big gi and no-gi tournaments coming up during the year. “I love this life,” he says, “I love to travel, fight, and teach. It’s my life.”

Lepri wants to thank his students at Alliance New York City. “Thank you to my wife for giving me the support when I need it,” he says, “Thank you also to GRACIEMAG so I can talk about my experience at the tournament.” Lastly he’d like to thank his sponsors Keiko Sports for giving him the support to fight, and KP Studio Physical Conditioning, “They help me prepare for all my tournaments.”

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