A two-time World Championship-winning black belt, Leonardo Nogueira of team Alliance is one of the favorites to take the title at the Copa Pódio Heavyweight GP coming up Jan. 13 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Hebraica Club.
Nogueira, who trains out of the coastal São Paulo town of Guarujá, ended up in the Yellow Group, regarded as the “group of death”, and is pretty excited about it. “The Yellow Group is the toughest one. But that’s the course a champion takes; to win a competition, you have to beat the toughest competition in it,” he tells GRACIEMAG.com in the following interview.
In the interview, Léo also addresses his plans for the GP, his thoughts on taking on the brown belt Keenan Cornelius in the opening match, and much more.
GRACIEMAG: For the first round of the Heavyweight GP you got drawn up against Lloyd Irvin brown belt Keenan Cornelius right of the bat. What do you expect in this match?
LÉO NOGUEIRA: Man, I’ve seen that kid fight. He’s a really skillful guard player and is coming in with a lot of will to win. But I’m working on all my fundamentals, and I feel that I’ll do fine wherever it goes. However, I’ll be wary of the kid’s guard the whole time.
In the draw for the Heavyweight GP, you ended up in the group of death. What’s your assessment of your group in the competition?
It is certainly the toughest group. But that’s the course a champion takes; to win a competition, you have to beat the toughest competition. There’s nowhere to run. All the athletes in the group are on the same level. I feel they’re all favorites to win. And in a six-minute match, anything can happen.
How’s your training camp for the Heavyweight GP going?
I’m doing what I can to train hard. I’ve had the help of some great friends of mine training here in my home city, Guarujá, coastal São Paulo State. With the end-of-the-year festivities, it got harder to put together a good group to train with; but some friends of mine put in the sacrifice to help me out, like Fábio Romão, Teco Shinzato, Andrezão and Bruno Cargalho, whom I’m grateful to. Today training at Alliance headquarters in São Paulo is striking back up in full swing. I’m counting on everyone there’s help.
Copa Pódio will also be featuring a Couple’s Showdown. Which couple is your money on?
The couples are really evenly matched, both on the male side and the female side. It’s hard to pick, but I can speak from the results I’ve seen over the year: I see Leandro Lo as a favorite because of his titles, while Augusto Tanquinho isn’t far behind him at all. Between the girls, Luiza Monteiro had a great Worlds at black belt and is coming into this year strong, but Mackenzie’s coming in strong too, although she’s only just been promoted from brown belt. Picking a winner is a tough task, but based on results, I’ll say Luiza’s the favorite, although Mackenzie has plenty enough vigor to win, too.
What are your plans for 2013? More training with Mauricio Shogun and co. after the 2013 Worlds?
This year, I want to go for the world absolute title, God willing. I also want to compete at the 2013 ADCC, and at the end of the year I want to have an MMA fight. Up until halfway through the year I’m going to train in a lot of Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. After that I’ll focus more on MMA.