The life of Fernando Tererê, 31, has gained public attention for its glories and its tragedies.
The glories were all conquered in the gi, a result of his unique talent.
“I was a world champion from blue belt to black,” he recollects.
His winning routine began in 1997, when at 17 he won the lightweight division.
With every passing year, Tererê moved up a belt and kept taking his place at the top of the podium.
In 1998, he won his second world title, at purple belt; in 1999, as a brown belt, his third.
In the year 2000, he made his black belt debut and was crowned four-time world champion.
In 2001, he took runner-up after losing the middleweight title to Victor “Shaolin” Ribeiro.
In 2003, he had his greatest moment of all. He won his second world title as a black belt (fifth overall) upon submitting Marcelo Garcia in the middleweight final.
No one since then has even managed to beat Garcia in the division, much less submit him.
In 2004, rather than defend his throne, he decided to test himself against the big guys, signing up for the ultra heavyweight division, despite weighing only 80 kg.
He ended up taking runner-up, losing to Fabrício Werdum.
It was in 2004 that his problems turned into tragedies.
Following a two-week stint teaching seminars in the United States, Tererê suffered a mental breakdown on a flight from Miami to São Paulo.
Just three years after September 11, 2001, he disturbed passengers’ peace and was given the severe penalty of spending30 days in custody in Florida.
What followed the crisis was more psychological issues that alcohol and drugs only made worse.
“I spent six years away from Jiu-Jitsu. Six years without putting on a gi,” Fernando asserts.
Over those six years, now and again he would resurface, but he didn’t seem to be well. The news coming from his end got worse and worse.
Diagnosed with severe depression, on November 16, 2009, on his 30th birthday, GRACIEMAG.com put in a call to his home, in the Cantagalo favela of Rio de Janeiro.
His mother, Regina Helena, answered the phone, but there was no joy in her voice: “He stays in his room almost all day. We made a cake and sang Happy Birthday, but I don’t think he really understands what’s going on.”
Despite the deteriorating outlook, Helena was sure of one thing: “The family will never give up on him!”
Days after the phone call, more news arose, and with it, hope.
Finally, Tererê had agreed to be treated for depression and drug abuse – crack even.
“I went to some clinics and did a complete detox,” recalls Tererê.
The cost of his treatment was footed by friends, acquaintances and fans. Stars like Marcelo Garcia, Bráulio Estima, Rômulo Barral and other collaborated by holding seminars, auctions and making donations to pay for the clinic in São Paulo state.
In March 2010, the news was better; the champ had put on weight and rediscovered his smile. In May, he went back to training with Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva at Alliance Rio. In June he was in Mexico teaching seminars. In July he headed for Europe. He passed through England, Poland, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal and Italy in over three months of travel.
In 2011, Tererê continued to make changes in his life. In August, he joined Sasha Hook, and English girl, in matrimony. Now he plans to go live in the country of his beloved.
“I just waiting on the visa,” he reveals.
Before flying out, he’s continuing to make his living through seminars. We caught up with him early last night in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the location for the next of them.
We caught up with him at the academy of Mário Reis, who recently joined up with Alliance, and class was packed.
As Tererê arrives on the scene he is greeted by everyone, many of them white and blue belts who had never seen him compete before, if not in videos on the internet. Even so, the reverence and support was there.
“It’s this affection and support that makes me forge ahead,” he remarks, already sporting the custom gi made for him by his new sponsor, Tatami Fight Wear.
And forging ahead also means returning to the USA, without fear.
“I want to train with my friends, Cobrinha, Michael Langhi, Lucas Lepri…” he announces.
But won’t his having been detained there in 2004 be a problem?
“I wasn’t deported, so there’s nothing holding me back from getting a new visa,” he replies.
But before his stateside return, he’ll head back to England to meet up with Sasha and get his plans for a brighter future underway.
“I want to set up my own academy, start my own team, but first I’ll keep up the seminar routine. That’s how I’ve been making my living since leaving the clinic,” he reveals.
Mário Reis has already wrapped up the students’ warmup. Before teaching the first position of the night, he advises his students that Tererê will be holding a seminar there in two weeks.
“It’ll be 60 reais (35 dollars) to learn from a legend! No one should miss this opportunity to learn from the guy who taught Cobrinha, Langhi, André Galvão. He taught Ramon Lemos and others,” Reis informed them.
After a photo shoot to be published in GRACIEMAG, Tererê agreed to teach the position in the video.
He demonstrates a hook sweep that ends with an armbar.
Worked up, he decides to show all the students the position.
He gives instructions naturally; Tererê repeats then, emphasizing the finer details.
Everyone pays their full attention. A number of them take out their cell phones to film his explanation.
The position taught, Tererê observes them as they attempt the move.
Before making our way out, we ask one last question. When will we see him back in competition? It would be great to see him at the Europeans in 2012.
He smiles and gives an enigmatic answer, speaking softly, “I’m waiting on my body to fill out!”
We’ll be rooting for him.