[First published in 2014.]
I decided to fight the Brazilian Championship at the beginning
of the month of May, as a challenge. The idea was to use
the CBJJ competition in São Paulo as preparation for the
Worlds in California. On the side, I would take the opportunity
to shuffle it up with this younger crop, which sometimes
doesn’t get the chance to fight a big tournament outside Brazil.
I usually arrive for championships with some time to spare,
especially when there are athletes of mine competing. Depending
on the timetable, I’ll arrive two hours before the start of my
category. That’s what I did in São Paulo. I arrived at the gymnasium
in Barueri feeling pumped. I was really well, happy and
ready to whet my skills for the World Championship. I knew I
was physically in great shape, but I needed to adjust the tempo
of the positions. I entered the gymnasium conscious that I was
going to lose positions during the fights, that I would need to
chase the adjustments.
The absolute began Saturday afternoon, on May 3rd.
My first match was versus the young Fred de Almeida, son of
Prof. Otávio de Almeida. I didn’t know Fred, but felt he came
in enthusiastic. I like to start out keeping a game of harmony
and adjustment, but he charged, and there
wasn’t much studying going on in the match.
I wound up passing the guard and mounting,
but after a few minutes I lost the mount. I made
sure to mount again and managed to finish.
In the end, I play in my opponent’s rhythm
and adjust throughout the fight. But, in case I
have to get my hands dirty early on, I’m ready.
In the round of 16 I defeated Allan Régis with a choke, and
then I faced one of the more complicated matches of the day,
the quarterfinal against Augusto Ferrari. I already knew Augusto
was very good, and he succeeded in stopping me. His grips
did not allow me to find my bearings in the fight. I believe this
sleeve game is very tough, especially when the bottom player
has good grips. Anyway, I kept my posture and got the advantages.
When the fight approached the end, he had to come for
me, and the match became good, but there was no time left.
In the semifinal, my adversary was Renato Cardoso. I knew
Renato’s game of 50/50 with foot locks, and I knew he would
use that weapon. At a certain moment of the fight, I placed my
hand on his forehead and took a penalty, which irritated me,
as it’s a useless and stupid rule. Behind on the scoreboard,
I pulled to guard. I managed to maneuver to sweep, but discerned
the chance to go to the back instead of winning the
points for the sweep. That’s when he grabbed my leg and put
me in his usual foot lock position. He applied pressure a few
times, but I positioned myself in such a way that, despite the
squeeze, there wasn’t enough pressure on my foot to make me
tap, partly because I have a lot of flexibility against this type of
lock. At a certain point in the position, Renato just held it, and
the ref didn’t give me my points for it. So I had to explode to get
rid of the lock, move up and thus win the two points. As soon
as I freed myself, I went to the back and then to side control.
But time was up.
This was it, another absolute final. Throughout competitions,
between one fight and another, I try to stay cool while
analyzing the potential of each possible opponent – all without
losing focus on the next matches. I always focus on what I have
to do. What I’ve learned in the course of my
career is that, when you are an experienced
competitor, it suffices to feel the way your opponent
holds the gi right at the beginning of
the fight; it’s enough to see a little bit of initial
movement to understand his game.
Ever since the brackets to the absolute
class of the 2014 Brazilian Championship
were first published, I began rooting for Felipe Preguiça to
win on the other side. Him or Lucas Lepri, as they were both
guys I would love to face, even more so in a final. Preguiça’s
game, in this case, would match mine better, and it was probably
going to be a great clash. If Paulo Miyao had reached the
final instead, it would have been different. I would have had to
restrict his movements and penetrate as soon as possible. But
in the end Lepri eliminated Miyao, and Preguiça beat Lepri in
the semifinal and was the best on that bracket. I was glad – I
was looking forward to fighting him.
The next day
Spot secured in the final, it’s time to replenish the energy. I
usually just hydrate a lot, take supplements, eat and sleep. Not
many secrets there. In the case of the Nationals, I also had to
keep the weight for my section on Sunday, so I ate a light meal
and hydrated. On the menu, really dry grilled chicken, salad
and some spaghetti with garlic and oil, also quite dry. I woke
up feeling great, with the feeling of a job well done, and in no
pain. In the morning I ate eggs and some fruits for breakfast,
and went back to the battlefield.
The way I see it, the institution of the absolute final on the
following day doesn’t make a lot of sense, and ends up being
unfair to the athletes, who are obliged to save themselves
throughout Sunday. To me, it should either all end on Saturday,
or the open should be played after the weight class. But I felt
ready and very motivated, because I was in a final and I saw
myself as the best in my division, heavyweight. Which didn’t
mean it would be easy.
Sunday’s fights started out really cool; there were only
tough fighters. In the first I fought a guy from
Ryan Gracie, a very strong one – I managed to
set the pace, get to a good position and finish;
I was very conscious throughout. In the second,
at the quarterfinals, I faced an Alliance
guy, a tough capoeira player who charged
me right away. I had to “brawl” with him too:
I took him down, passed and mounted, but
went for his arm without the adjustments and
fell on the bottom. I even placed a triangle
but didn’t lock it, and the fight ended. Then
came the semifinal, again with Allan Régis, whom I had fought
the previous day.
I knew Allan already, but only by name. I saw he is a very,
very strong guy. If on Saturday I had won nicely, on Sunday I
had no such luck in the course of the match. I got to side control,
adjusted myself to move to his arm, but then he lifted me
and wound up on my back. I had to get out and land playing
guard. Then we exchanged some attacks, but when he came
to pummel me I tried to recover and felt my groin.
A torrent of thoughts went through my mind then. I really
wanted to fight the Brazilian final, do the match with Preguiça
and then travel to the World Championship all pumped, in late
May. At the time we get upset, we even think of never competing
again, but these are passing thoughts. In the end, with faith
and the right people beside us, recovery is good, and that feeling
returns that I’ll soon be back on the mats, with that basic,
finishing style – now armored and injury-free.
Despite the unexpected lesion, what’s interesting is that it
was also versus Allan Régis that I had my biggest joy in Barueri.
In our first encounter, in the absolute’s round of 16 on Saturday,
he began fighting hard. Then, I succeeded in holding back his
momentum with a punctual kata guruma, and
then I started putting the fight in its proper clip.
I passed, mounted and wound up losing not
only the choke, but the mount as well. I did
not let it shake me. On the bottom, I closed
the guard and managed to finish with the
Helio Gracie choke from the guard. I made
my first grip, and he kind of lost focus, and I
sank the move. I get very happy when I use
basic positions, especially a choke from the
guard. When I win like this, I feel it’s an homage
to true Jiu-Jitsu. That was certainly the happiest moment
of the weekend to me.