It was a regular Wednesday. A common working day. I went out into the Flamengo neighborhood of Rio to cover the weigh-ins of Shooto Brazil 38, invited by André Pederneiras, coach and organizer of the event which was held last April 19 at the headquarters of the samba school Vila Isabel.
With some athletes delayed due to the chaotic traffic in Rio, and with most of the fighters present hitting the weight limit for their respective divisions, everything was going as planned. Since I was near Upper gym, where Nova Uniao trains, I wanted to know if there was going to be normal training activities. The answer came from Giovani Diniz: “It starts now, at 3 p.m.”
Walking into Nova União on any normal day is finding the Brazilian UFC elite in an atmosphere of complete relaxation. Renan Barão joked a bit and finally got dressed to shoot his training for his sponsor. Jose Aldo, with a distant fight against Anthony Petits said, “Today I’ll just help my teammates.” However, only by helping the featherweight champion of the UFC already showed what he is capable of doing. At the place, Hacran Dias, Jussier Formiga, Raoni Barcelos and other athletes initiated the training.
On one side, Barão was training with a young guy from the gym to shoot for the sponsor. Closer to me, Sérgio Bomba was training by changing his opponent every two minutes. In the other dojo, Jussier sharpened his stand-up game and on the ground. Where would you look in the midst of such movement?
After a few minutes, Barão and Aldo were face to face during training. The bantamweight interim UFC champion against featherweight UFC champion were exchanging quick punches. Aldo sometimes shot in on Barão’s legs, who was not intimidated to be taken down by the friend and champion of the other division taking the game to the ground and he even tried to apply a triangle. Aldo managed to get out of the position. Will Wineland have the same fate?
On the other side, Hacran and Raoni started their training. Raoni as Hacran’s sparring sought takedowns frequently. Strong hip and leg movements led Raoni to achieve the takedown, but Hacran who was speedy, rose quickly.
The training was running strong with all fighters focused on their steps. But they all stopped when they heard a different noise. Barão, trying to take the fight to the ground against a sparring hit his head on a training area protection. Everyone stops. Barão gets up, puts his hand on his forehead and breaks the tension. “It was nothing, my head is hard,” he said.
After the scare came the laughter.
Then came Thales Leites’ time to train. After eight months recovering from knee surgery, the middleweight who fought against Anderson Silva for the UFC belt worked hard standing up and submitted a few during training.
After a heavy day, the conversation went on among the athletes. Between jokes shared among them, talk about soccer and even how each was dressed at the time, the friendly mood at the gym was evident.
Is this environment the basis of Dede Pederneiras’ formula in his factory of champions?