In 2009, Gracie Barra brown belt Ana Laura Cordeiro won the then combined female brown/black belt division at the Pan American Championship. By then she could count over 40 matches and no losses recorded in her competitive career.
Her most notable opponents were Gabi Garcia, Michelle Nicolini, Penny Thomas and more of the top legends at the time who still actively compete today. Unfortunately after the championship she suffered a back injury that would defeat her unlike any other opponent.
More than four years later and still off the competition mats, she is a black belt teaching at her academy while working to strengthen her back.
Will we ever see her compete with today’s top females? What about the differences between the the women then and now? She told GRACIEMAG the answer:
GRACIEMAG: When was the last time you competed and what made you stop? Do you miss competing?
ANA LAURA CORDEIRO: My last tournament was in 2009 at the Pan Ams. At the time I achieved first place weight & open class division. After the tournament I was diagnosed with a degenerative disc L5 -S1, so it forced me to stop training and competing. Yes, I do miss competing a lot. Competition used to be my world; it was the way I found a way to challenge myself. When you compete, it’s just you, nobody can do it for you. At the tournaments I have to reinvent myself, and not just find inside of me an Ana Laura with no fears and egos, but find the best version that I can be. I’m passionate for challenges!
How is your health and will we ever see you compete again?
I believe I’m in my best shape ever! Since I hurt my back, I had to slow down a lot of my physical exercises. I started to gain a lot of weight, so I realized I couldn’t eat the way I used to eat before, and since then I’ve been trying different ways of dieting. I’ve been vegetarian for two years, vegan for one, and now I’m on a gluten free diet, feeling good so far.
I recently did my back surgery, and my recovery it’s going very well. My main goal now is get back to my normal routine which is teach, run, workout and of course train BJJ. So, if after all I’m still doing good, and my back is feeling okay, I’ll think about tournaments again. But my goal is to enjoy life without pain!
What was your strategy to defeating Gabi Garcia in 2009 and do you think the same strategy would work against her today?
Funny question because I never step up on the mats with a strategy, and when I was going to face her my professor Marcio Feitosa said, “do whatever you wanna do but do not shoot for double leg.” I shook my head and said: “I got you professor.” First 10 seconds of the fight, and I did the complete opposite of what he said. I shoot for the double and I failed of course! So then, I started to use my spider guard against her and it worked very well. I swept her and placed my knee on her belly, then I came back to my spider guard for the rest of the fight. Gabi has changed her game since 2009, she improved her Jiu-Jitsu skills, got stronger and learned how to take advantage of her physical type against other girls, which is very smart. I’m not sure if my wrestling skills would work against her. If I ever face her again, I will follow what my professor suggested for me to do (laughs).
What changes and evolution have you noticed between when you were competing and the female competition scene today?
Jiu-Jitsu has changed a lot through the years, the competitors are more professionals and there is no space for amateurs. The girls are so much stronger, “physically & technically” they earned more space in the BJJ scenario, even though there is always space to grow. Nowadays the girls’ mats are as exciting to watch as the mens’ ones. I stopped competing but my eyes never get tired to observe BJJ tournaments. I will do my best to be part of this again!