Rodolfo Vieira was all smiles when he came upon the GRACIEMAG.com reporter at the restaurant of the Armed Forces Officers Hotel at around 10 am. The winner of the World Pro No-Gi competition had just downed eight boiled eggs and cut his meal short to speak to readers.
Coming off your phenomenal performance at the Pan, did you expect this No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu win?
It wasn’t my main focus; my main focus is the Gi event. I only trained one day without the gi, felt I didn’t have the timing of some of the positions down. . . . I think I was set back by my wrestling; I could have practiced more of it. I even had to pull guard in some of my matches – something I don’t like doing in competition. My gas was up to speed; I only felt tired in one match, I Felt like I’d rolled ten times.
Where do you feel you went wrong against Lovato, in the heavyweight final?
I feel I sort of lacked concentration; I was thinking more about the absolute final, a grave mistake. Perhaps if I’d been more strategic I’d have won. But I left myself open to Lovato’s guillotine when the fight was tied and ended up giving up the reversal. But the credit’s all his. Lovato is a great fighter.
And what’s your assessment of the absolute final, against Rafael Mendes?
Everybody was saying I couldn’t let a match with Rafa go to a draw, since he enjoys such enormous prestige in Abu Dhabi and the result would probably favor him. . . That’s why I was so apprehensive at the end of the match. But the result went in my favor. I feel it was fair, I attacked more. I just didn’t get taken into his game. That’s not running away, that’s strategy.
What did you learn from the training session at the royal palace?
Sheikh Tahnoon is sensational, a super down-to-earth guy. . . I was really anxious when they invited me to train with him. . . But it was marvelous, I learned so many things that night.
What do you intend to show starting Friday, at the Gi World Pro?
I believe I’ll put on a better performance that I did than no-gi, as it’s my main focus, it’s what I’ve been practicing for years. I think I’ll be more of a finisher. I know the attention is all on me. I’m being studied and mapped, but I’m not going to change my game because of that, I’m just going to train a lot more, to amplify my technique.