BJJ star Hiago celebrates title in Abu Dhabi, announces MMA debut for Aug.

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Hiago is one of the best black belts in the world. Photo: Personal archive

An elite light featherweight, Hiago George succeeded in winning gold in his first BJJ tournament in 2021. At the Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, the Cícero Costha-trained black-belt defeated three strong opponents to walk out with a gold medal and a beautiful eagle-shaped trophy.

First he had to get past Pablo Mantovani (Atos) in order to beat Lucas Pinheiro (Atos) and Diego Pato (Cícero Costha) in the semifinals and final, respectively. All matches were decided by points, which were scored through dominant positions achieved by the champion.

“The announcement of the events was in very short notice, but thank God I always keep myself training very hard,” Hiago said in a recent interview. “I give it 110% every day and stay prepared for any challenges, at any time. I had a very good performance and I’m celebrating a lot with this great title in my career. I’m happy to have fought well against great athletes who are at the top of the category. My game flowed well; I acted on top and on the bottom. My passing game and my guard game are sharp right now.”

The athletes, who were invited by the AJP, the entity that organizes these events in Abu Dhabi, stayed in a hotel in quarantine for 14 days, getting tested daily as a preventive measure against the new coronavirus. Hiago summed up to us the days preceding the tourney:

“It was an impeccable championship done by the AJP. All athletes were treated like professionals, and that’s very gratifying. The sheikh has a unique love for BJJ, and that’s why he values our art so highly. We were quarantined in the hotel, did daily tests because of the new coronavirus, and it all worked out in the end. It’s a new experience to have a mask attached to my face the whole time, but we adapt. I will always do my part so that everything goes back to normal soon, and I can barely wait to return to the UAE to fight again.”

Born in Livramento de Nossa Senhora, in the state of Bahia, the land of great fighters like Junior Cigano, Hiago is now preparing his transition into MMA. He told us he used to box and gave us insight on how he views this new challenge. “MMA has always been something I have a great desire for. To give you an idea, I had contact with the martial art through boxing 14 years ago and, after that, I began doing BJJ, the sport I wound up prioritizing. After achieving great titles in BJJ, the time has come to take another step and kick the challenges up a notch. I’ve already been practicing my standup for some time — I had a fight scheduled — but because of the pandemic, everything got delayed. I’m going to fight in August.”

On how he’s been handling the new kind of training, he said, “The main difference, for me, was adapting BJJ while I strike my opponent, and my conditioning, because it’s a different type of stimulation. You have to be in a very good physical condition to have a good performance in the fight.”

Hiago is not quitting competitive jiu-jitsu. He’s fighting again in June, both in Copa Pódio and in the AJP’s South America event.

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