Brown belt absolute world champion João Gabriel is the only brown belt on the lineup for the Copa Pódio Heavyweight Grand Prix, coming up January 13, 2013. The card has shaped up to be a real doozy, with the likes of Xande Ribeiro, Lucio Lagarto, Léo Nogueira and Rodolfo Vieira all in the mix. The eight-fighter roster is divided into two groups—the green team and the yellow team—for the qualifying phase of the event. The group draw will take place November 24 in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State, Brazil.
João Gabriel has also qualified to compete at the April WPJJC in Abu Dhabi, having earned his ticket at the Natal, Brazil, tryouts for the event. The Leandro “Tatu” Escobar student spoke with GRACIEMAG.com, revealing how he is training for his coming challenges.
“I’m training hard. My training camp was put together by my teacher, Tatu. Augusto Tanquinho, who will also be competing at Copa Pódio, and Rafael Formiga are coming down to train with us. Beyond that, I’m doing a lot of wrestling with my brother Pedro Rocha, and judo with the black belt Juliano Leon,” he revealed.
Of the black belts in the Heavyweight GP, Rodolfo Vieira is one who João Gabriel has already faced, and from whom he has derived lessons from their encounters.
“Not too many people know it, but I’ve already faced Rodolfo Vieira before. We fought at the Abu Dhabis tryouts in 2010. I was a purple belt, and he was a black belt. He took it easy on me in that match (laughs). The other two times were at tryouts as well, last year. The last time, I realized I still had a lot of training to do to reach his level, and I still do. That’s why this will be a great opportunity to test myself. To me Rodolfo’s the world number one, and it’ll be an honor to face him again.”
So what kind of attitude does a brown belt need to have to face black belts? Do you need to be cautious, or do you just go all out?
“I respect all of them but I’m going out there to do my job. I’ve been training a lot to be prepared to fight at the same level they do,” said the ever more mature João.
A thick-skinned brown belt, João speaks positively about the new crop of talent showing up in his belt group, like Keenan Cornelius, Jackson Sousa, Felipe Preguiça, Paulo Miyao, Wilbur Leonard, Rodrigo Aquiles and others.
“The new talent showing up on the scene is really great. And they’re getting more and more attention from the media. All you need to do is take a look at championships like the Abu Dhabi WPJJC, where a number of brown belts have beat black belts,” he reminds us.