Popovitch to train with Sheikh Tahnoon, but first stirs the pot of controversy

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Photo: Dan Rod

Following some trying times, fortune has begun to smile on our GMA Pablo Popovitch (Avengers team), a Rio-born Jiu-Jitsu teacher living in Florida.

After losing his mother and his Teresopolis home with everything in it in January, the 31-year-old black belt was invited to bolster the training sessions of another stalwart Jiu-Jitsu stylist: none other than Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, a three-stripe black belt – and the prince of Abu Dhabi.

The invitation came after Pablo himself made the cover of GRACIEMAG. He is currently hard at work training to defend his ADCC 2011 title, not to mention an unbeaten streak dating back four years.

So what is it Popovitch is grumbling about? Well, after watching some footage from the 2011 World Pro, there were a few issues that caught the teacher’s attention, and he took it upon himself to share them with GRACIEMAG.com readers.

“Our training camp at Avengers in Florida is underway already, with a number of our students who have been standing out lately participating – like my black belt Vagner Rocha, who took third at the Abu Dhabi No-Gi Pro at both weight and open weight, losing both by referee decision. What I’ve been noticing is that the Gi game is based mostly on grips, strength and weight, with a lot of wins coming by way of a single advantage point and sneakiness,” Pablo told GRACIEMAG.com.

“The champion, Rodolfo Vieira, really does have a tight pass game in the gi. Without the gi, in my opinion, it’s another story: I see the weaker fighter fighting on even terms – and with greater chances of using technique to win. Such was the case with Vagner, who lost to Rodolfo in a fight a lot of folks felt he won. And Vagner only weighs 77kg (170 lbs). The same deal with Rafael Mendes, who lost by judges’ decision. No-Gi, in my eyes, annuls the grip game, evening the playing field when there’s a big weight difference involved. That’s my opinion.”

Would you agree, dear reader? Get in on the debate, commenting below.

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There are 23 comments for this article
  1. spk at 7:27 pm

    No-gi annuls the grip game. Of course it does. That is obvious. The weaker more technical opponent still can be better at his grips than the larger opponent, he has every opportunity to do this.

  2. Patrick Te Tau at 7:38 pm

    Pablo has done a lot more jiu jitsu than I have. But, I disagree, I find the Gi to be an equaliser, allowing me to compete with bigger, stronger opponents. Pablo has an unreal no-gi game, maybe this is the real reason?

  3. stallingblackbelt at 10:37 pm

    This coming from the guy, who only competes nogi, and just stalls after a takedown and might be the most boring fighter ive ever seen

  4. Jordan Burton, III at 4:20 am

    Just from personal experience, the lack of gripping game without question is an equilizer. I’m 5’4 1/4″ and train comfortably at 146 pounds. One of my toughest training partners (with the gi) is about 5’9″ and 170 pounds. When we roll with the gi, it is pretty even and at times, I feel his strength and he locks me down more effectively . But, when we take the gi off and roll Nogi, he doesn’t feel as strong and those grips (i.e. using the bottom of the top, etc.) are gone. This is where “apatation” and a clinching game Eddie Bravo speaks of plays a huge part for me.The training then is more so in my favor. A BIG part of that is that I study NoGI a WHOLE LOT and my style is much more less dependant on the gi.

  5. The truth at 11:15 am

    @stalling – wait, didn’t Pablo win the finals of last year’s Worlds 6-0 over a VERY good Daniel Moraes? Is that 6-0 victory the stalling match you’re talking about? Except for his battles with Marcelinho (who, it COULD be argued, stalls by sitting down every match), most of Pablo’s matches are won by the takedown and a guard pass. I don’t recall Pablo winning matches by stalling or on advantage – like many other fighters do.

  6. Joe at 2:32 pm

    I agree that nogi definitely evens the weight match up. I find I am able to slip out of positions in nogi that would be impossible if I had the gi on.

  7. No-Gi-Grappling.com at 9:33 am

    I have to humbly disagree with Pablo… sorta. In BOTH the Gi and No-Gi game grips are incredibly important for control. The thing is that the grips No-Gi are different from Sport Jiu Jitsu when the person is grabbing the sleeve, collar, back of the jacket etc… In other words, when their grips in the Gi are based on grabbing the Gi.

    Forgive me for assuming but most of the top BJJ competitors that Pablo mentioned above probably train the majority of the time in the Gi. He’s right. It’s possible that a person may have a tight guard passing game in the Gi and have no game No-Gi.

    I agree with Pablo that the weaker guy may be able to do better against a bigger, stronger opponent IF they have better technique No-Gi i.e. better grips, tekks and setups that don’t really on the Gi. But, just like Sport Jiu Jitsu, if the skill level is equal then the bigger, stronger person will win most of the time.

  8. Mateo at 12:43 pm

    Pablo Papovitch does stall in every match I have seen. He does not push the pace and wins by an advantage or point most of the time. He is by far the most boring grappler I have ever seen. This does not mean he isnt a great grappler. He just prefers to win his matches by scoring, than stalling until time is up. I think pablo could definitley push the pace and sub a lot more people but just doesnt want to risk it.

  9. Jordan Burton, III at 1:05 pm

    Joe, it is “less technical” to (Granby) roll and slip out of holds and submissions. Sweat is cheating … makes you a less technical person who gets “lazy” and doesn’t have technical, slow escapes.


  10. Pat at 9:56 pm

    After seeing 130 Lb Caio Terra win the absolute division over the 200-220 lb guys I have to say that the Gi doesn’t always favor the bigger stronger guy! Pat

  11. Jordan Burton, III at 6:36 am

    Caio’s case may have been the “exception and not the rule” on that particular day. I don’t think Pablo was speaking in absolute terms … generally. I still agree with Pablo.

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