In 2000, recently promoted from the purple belt to the brown belt, Ricardo Arona emerged as the star of Carlson Gracie Academy.
Owner of a cold stare and a warm heart, the 21-year-old Niterói native would fearlessly get tangled with the team’s black belts, thus molding his will and sharpening his claws.
One day, an internal selection was scheduled to see who would represent the academy at ADCC 2000 in Abu Dhabi. The young brown belt started beating the usual suspects with unusual takedowns and a very explosive game, based on his training at Itacoatiara, a Niterói beach where Arona trained in two routes: one of explosion, in a straight ascent; and another of resistance , a longer and winding path to the top of a hill.
“In the final I came face to face with Amaury Bitetti, who was my idol,” Arona told Graciemag once. “I was able to underhook and unbalance him with a lot of effort, and when I saw that I was going to throw him with his back on the ground, I held back and I put him on the ground with respect.”
At ADCC 2000, Arona respected no one, and threw decorated fighters like Tito Ortiz and Jeff Monson to earn his first major career title.
Below, we highlight some of Arona’s main lessons for you to develop your fighting spirit and fight with tiger eyes.
1. “The complete fighter is the one who has the mind and body prepared.”
2. “I always sought contact with nature — to climb mountains, swim in the sea, catch waves. Itacoatiara, where I live, is a very native place; it touches my essence as a fighter. I like to be alone with nature — that touches my warrior side. ”
3. “I like to feel like a tiger alone in the woods. When I get into the ring to fight, I feel like the strongest of the felines: solitary, a hunter, ready to kill or die. My instinct says I cannot be afraid of a fighter of my weight. ”
4. “The head is indeed the great differential between fighters. You may be physically well prepared, but if your head is not in good shape, chances are you’ll lose. ”
5. “I have always had difficult fights in my life. I learned to oxygenate my body well in difficult times. In the most critical situations, when you’re in trouble, you cannot afford to lose control. You have to breathe and concentrate all your energy to escape, all at once — for it may be your last opportunity in the fight. It’s all psychological. You always have to come in feeling good, and remain so at the time of exploding and counterattacking. ”
6. “At 14, I started to train a lot of jiu-jitsu. At 15, I was doing a lot of slap fighting, self-defense training and MMA in the gym. With that, I lost my fear. When the guy stares at me, I do not tremble. I like the adrenaline. It can be anyone, because I fear no one. I just walk forward. I do not go back at all. ”
7. “I like to fight stronger guys; I see it as only another challenge in life — and I like the challenge. The bigger, the better.”
8. “When I fight, the spirit of the warrior dominates me. In that moment, if you take a knife and cut me, I feel nothing — so much is the adrenaline coursing through me. Once, I broke two ribs, took a kick in the face, and kept attacking. ”
9. “He who does not have a strong essence does not become a winner in a hard sport like ours.”
10. “In the end, my mantra when fighting is this: I cannot feel tired. I cannot feel pain.”