Diego Almeida wins 1st tourney as black-belt, sets sights on Pan

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Diego with his first gold as black belt. Photo: Personal Archive

Diego Almeida, 25, took his initial few steps as a black-belt last weekend in Miami, FL. The athlete from Double Five took down the super-heavy division with a win over Thiago Alves at the Miami Open. Excited with his performance, he already has ambitious goals for February and March.

This student under Rafael “Formiga” intends to fight in one more Open before facing his biggest challenge yet — the 2020 IBJJF Pan, which is set to take place in March in California. Diego wants, once more, to test his way of fighting among the sport’s elite.

“I’m almost qualified for the Pan,” he told this week. “There are just a few points to go, then I’ll confirm my participation as soon as I win another Open from the federation.”

“My focus is to fight as much as possible,” he added, “to feel at home in the black belt to conquer my biggest dream, which is the world championship.”

Diego called his recent win in Miami special, because it reminded him of the long road that led him there. “I cried a ton when I was on the podium, but every sacrifice was worthwhile. It’s just the start of my journey. I want to fight against the best.”

With the Miami Open being his debut in the black belt, Diego says he was nervous due to not knowing what to expect when faced with Thiago Alves in the final. “I was able to not let my fear dominate me, and everything flowed well. During the fight, when I swept, he tried to defend giving me his back… It was from this moment that we stood up and I was able to take him down to control his back and adjust the choke.”

Asked to share some advice with our readers, Diego said, “Keep working and don’t give up — your work will always pay off. Learn to listen to good advice and practices from those who’ve already conquered what you desire. Learning by example can save you from experiencing frustration. Always believe in yourself.”

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