Joao Assis: newly crowned samurai

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Joao Assis went to the Samurai Pro Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament as a friend, employee, and teammate of Fabricio Werdum’s – and ended up getting paid an extra $6,000 for his participation in the event.

Joao Assis takes on Ricardo "Demente" Abreu. Photos: Deb Blyth.

Assis won gold in both his over 205-pound division and the absolute, which awarded him not just the money, but the coveted Samurai sword as well. Assis was sworn in as the Samurai Pro’s first samurai warrior.

In his division, Assis had two matches. The first was against Roberto “Tussa” Alencar. Assis took Alencar down, got him in an omoplata and then submitted him with a knee lock. “He tapped pretty fast,” Assis says, “It was a good match. He beat me two years ago at the 2009 No-Gi Worlds. Now we’re even.”

Assis’s second and final match was against Ricardo “Demente” Abreu. “It was a hard fight,” Assis says, “I took him down and then I attacked his back. I tried for an armbar from the back, but he defended. At the very end, he swept me, so the fight ended 6-2.”

That gave Assis a well-earned gold medal. “He’s a tough guy,” Assis says of Demente, “Everyone knows him. He does very well at the Worlds. It’s not every day you get to fight against Tussa and then Demente in the same day – except at the Worlds, so it was great.”

In the absolute Assis had two matches. His first fight was against Otavio Sousa. Assis pulled guard and was able to sweep him. The match went the distance, with Assis winning the battle 2-0.

In his second match he faced the big man, Antonio Braga Neto. “I took him down and then tried to pass, but time ran out,” Assis says, “It was a war. He’s a big guy. He’s always in the finals at every tournament. He’s a big name.”

Assis was happy to have so many good fights at the Samurai Pro and to get some very valuable competition experience in before the Worlds. “Now everyone knows I’m good,” he says, “The other guys are going to be very careful about me. To win a few weeks before such a big tournament is an advantage for me. I’m going to keep my training going and I’m going to be very good at the Worlds for sure.”

Assis says he’s ok with others studying his game and doing their best to beat him at it. He’s had the same game for many years, but he tries to cover everything within it. “I do what I do and I’m still doing it,” he laughs, “I can play everywhere. I don’t mind if people study my game. It doesn’t bother me.”

Surprisingly, Assis says even though he is completely confident with his Jiu-Jitsu game, he still feels a little nervous before a match. “It’s not about the guy I’m fighting,” he says, “It’s about the big crowd surrounding the fight – it’s the situation. This is what pushes me during a fight. After my first match, I’m fine. I’m very confident. If you train hard and you believe in your training, you can’t lose.”

These days Assis is Werdum’s main Jiu-Jitsu professor at Rafael Cordeiro’s Kings MMA school in Huntington Beach. He teaches a lot, but it doesn’t get in the way of his training schedule or his competition goals. “I teach at different times from when I train, so it works out well,” he says, “I spend all my time on the mat now. If I’m not training, I’m teaching. It’s easy. My students are getting very good, too, so I can train with them as well. Everything is natural. It all comes together.”

At the Worlds this year, Assis would really like to have a shot at matches against both Rodolfo Veira and Roger Gracie. “I want to fight them at the Worlds,” he says, “It would be a great challenge for me this year and to test myself and see what happens.”

Assis says a fight against Rodolfo would be a nice fight. “I’ve never had the opportunity to fight him before,” he says, “I’m going to fight in the heavy division for the Worlds, so it could happen. He likes to fight standing and has good pressure on the ground. A match between us would be good for everybody and for the fans watching.”

Assis’ goals for 2011 are simple. He says he has a very good training camp and he wants to win gold at the Worlds. Beyond June, he will start training for the No-Gi season and hopes to pick up some MMA fights again later on in the year.

As for the Samurai Pro, Assis says making $6000 doesn’t feel bad for a little work on a Sunday afternoon. “It was a good shift,” Assis laughs, “And I got a nice sword, too. It’s very beautiful. I will put it in my house for everyone to see.”

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