Interview: Kaynan Duarte and his mind set on breaking BJJ records

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Kaynan in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Carlos Arthur Jr.

A star of the new generation of international BJJ, at just 21 years old Kaynan has made it past the status of promising fighter to become the favorite in every tournament he takes part in. Be it in or out of the gi, the Atos Jiu-Jitsu black-belt, who made lots of noise back in the colored belts, has been confirming his great phase among the sport’s elite — and he’s aiming even further.

A champion at the gi Pan with recent success at the no-gi Kasai Pro, where he finished Craig Jones with an unexpected move, Kaynan flaunts enough versatility to easily go between the two distinct styles.

Even with important tournaments coming up, like the Abu Dhabi World Pro and Brazilian Nationals this month, the World Championship is squarely in his crosshairs. But even gold there won’t be enough for him, as he tells us in the following interview.

GRACIEMAG: Do you feel you have more momentum now than ever, or is it the same as always?
Kaynan Duarte: I’m certainly in my best phase, coming off big wins — something that motivates me and fills me with confidence — but I believe every championship is something different. What’s passed has passed, and what matters is what’s ahead.

You started getting noticed at the purple belt at the 2017 ADCC trials. What has changed about black-belt Kaynan compared to the purple-belt version?

What has changed is that now, certainly, I have a lot more experience and maturity. But I have the same will to win.

Of all the big-name fighters you’ve faced, which one was toughest?

I’ve had and will still have many athletes who will want to get in my way in my next challenges, but I think it’s better to keep to myself which one I find to be the toughest. [Laughs.]

One detail about your game is that you always start out in front on the scoreboard. What’s your secret?

That’s something I really like doing, but it’s not a fixed plan, because during a fight anything can happen and change all of a sudden. What I always think is to try to be complete in all aspects, be it stand-up, playing guard or passing.

At Kasai Pro you avoided Craig Jones’s strong position and counterattacked with a nice transition. Was is something new, or had you already been practicing that technique?

It’s a position I do a lot in my training sessions, but usually I use it in tournaments in the gi. In that situation, without the gi, I wasn’t planning on using that transition, but as soon as he started moving to cross the knee, I applied the technique and it all worked out.

The following months will be very busy in and out of the gi. How do you conciliate them both in your training?

This year has been a very busy one indeed. I will be at the Brazilian Nationals, the Abu Dhabi World Pro and the ADCC. I’m training a lot in the gi, but I manage to train no-gi as well. It’s always hard to conciliate them, because they are very different from each other. But we work with a very well-aligned timetable to work on everything in the best way.

Do you see big differences between fighting in classical and no-gi BJJ? In which do you feel more comfortable?

It depends. I really like fighting gi and no-gi. When it comes to training, I think no-gi is a little harder, but I like fighting both. But it all depends on the moment too. Since I’m training more in the gi, I’ve been enjoying it more, but when I transition to no-gi activities, I start appreciating no-gi more.

Even at a very young age, you are deemed a favorite in your upcoming tournaments. What are your plans for the future regarding that and stuff like teaching, starting a family?

I’m very confident. I’ve already managed to win the main titles of the season. I’m very focused on the World Championship. Really I only think about winning this title; I don’t have plans beyond gold at the Worlds. First I’ll reach my goal to later think about my next steps. But I can already guarantee that I want to defend the titles I win. One goal I have is to break some records. Winning is something that many athletes have done, but staying on top for a few years is the hardest part. After reaching my goals, I want to have my own school, make new champions, just like André Galvão does to me at Atos. And about seminars, after this period of competitions, I will seek to teach some seminars. About starting a family, I feel that it’s a little early still. [Laughs.]

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