The joy and responsibility of someone who’s trained since he was two

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João Gabriel has been making noise since purple belt. Photo: Carlos Ozório.

When launched its predictions at the start of the year in an article entitled “Ten fighters to watch out for in 2011”, the responsibility those fighters carried on their soldiers became all the more burdensome.

João Gabriel Rocha (Soul Fighters) was one of them. The moment he read the bulletin, he said right away: “Shoot… Now I really can’t let myself mess up!”

And he didn’t. João fulfilled the forecast of someone who keeps up with Jiu-Jitsu and knows what he’s talking about, by winning his weight group and the absolute in the brown belt division at the Brazilian Nationals that wrapped up yesterday. In winning the absolute, João Gabriel made it past André Alberto (Gracie Barra) in the final.

At 19 years of age, the Rio de Janeiro native towering at 1.94 meters (6’4”) tall is a familiar figure to anyone who keeps up with the Jiu-Jitsu scene in Brazil. Always calm and collect when he competes, he has practiced the gentle art since he was two years and eight months of age. Since then, João has racked up sixteen Brazilian national titles, one Pan-American, one Worlds (and one runner-up), two Rio Opens and two Brazilian No-Gi Nationals.

Álvaro Mansur, his first teacher, was another who put his chips on the lad being a competition success. From now until the next Brazilian Nationals – fulfilling all predictions – he is the best brown belt in Brazil, the owner of the belt on domestic soil. But he wants more. Here he comes at this year’s Worlds.

To check out the complete results from the Brazilian Nationals 2011, click here.

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