Rio de Janeiro native Jackson Sousa owned the brown belt division at the Brazilian No-Gi National Championship last October 27.
Following his victorious weekend, the CheckMat heavyweight spoke with GRACIEMAG.com about the two gold medals he took home with him, commented on the clash with Paulo Miyao, and heaped praise on Keenan Cornelius, the number one brown belt at the World No-Gi Championship.
GRACIEMAG.com: Where did Jackson Sousa come from? Do you only train in Jiu-Jitsu, or do you work as well?
JACKSON SOUSA: I’ve pretty much always done Jiu-Jitsu. I started when I was 10. At 13 I started working as well: I found a job in Cantagalo, the community where I live, and started working in car repair. There I learned how to fix, polish, clean and details cars, among other things. But I never stopped doing Jiu-Jitsu. I also worked for three years at the Rio de Janeiro Public Ministry as a page for the Child and Teenager Foundation, delivering files on Rua da Carioca Road. Now I practically only do Jiu-Jitsu. I’m an assistant teacher for Master Ricardo Vieira, and I teach at Champions Factory too.
What was your path to winning gold in the Brazilian No-Gi Nationals heavyweight division like?
JACKSON SOUSA: My division wasn’t easy in the least. I managed to get a submission in my first match. The second was really tough but I managed to set the pace and keep ahead in score the whole time, winning on points.
What about in the absolute? There was that semifinal with Paulo Miyao… Did you practice a lot of scrambling in training?
I didn’t practice any specific defense, but I try working on my posture when passing guard every day in training, and that way I prevent my opponent from getting into a scramble with me. My strategy has always been to push the pace and put my game to practice, regardless of who my opponent is. I’m always aware of my posture when on top, and I think that that may have made things difficult for him. At the tail end, I managed to get a straight footlock but didn’t finish, but I did get the advantage point that won it for me.
In the absolute final, you took on Rodrigo Aquiles, a friend of yours, and you were overcome with emotion. What was the feeling like?
Being in an absolute final with a friend from the same community as me was a very different feeling, with a lot of emotions involved. We know how to keep what goes on on and off the mat apart, and I want to always see Aquiles in the finals, whether against me or against other opponents. So it’s like that; we’re both professionals. After the event, we left together. At the moment there was a lot of emotion, but in the end we arrived home at Cantagalo Hill together, having fun and showing the folks our medals.
What’s your everyday training routine like?
I’m determined and train every day. I train twice a day in the gi, always at competition pace. Thank God I have lots of friends at the academy. They help me by motivating and sparring with me. I do positions every day, with lots and lots of repetitions. I also do physical conditioning three times a week with coaches Henri Ribeiro and Leco Cardilo at Studio Fun Training, in Ipanema. I’m always striving to improve my performances. Here’s my tip: the best Jiu-Jitsu training of the day is when you’re tired.
Keenan Cornelius won the brown belt division at the World No-Gi Championship, and there’s already talk of him facing Felipe Preguiça or another brown belt at the April Copa Pódio event. What do you think of his style?
Cornelius is a really good athlete. He has a different sort of Jiu-Jitsu. But I see no problem in facing him. He’s been winning some competitions and is to be congratulated for it. I met him here in Brazil. He showed up at my master’s academy but we didn’t train. I’m glad my name is being mentioned as a possible opponent for him here on GRACIEMAG.com and on Facebook. This way there’s support for the idea. I’ll always be ready and focused.