Bruno Bastos: “A Jiu-Jitsu black belt isn’t an MMA black belt”

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Bruno Bastos por cima do seu adversário.

Bruno Bastos (Nova União) atop his opponent in MMA / Photo by Steven Tippet

Bruno Bastos, a Jiu-Jitsu professor from Brazil now living in Dallas, Texas, decided to stick his neck out in MMA recently. The Nova União black belt fought twice over the last 30 days. First, on September 29, he overcame Yosif Petrov with a choke 2:20 minutes into their fight in Bulgaria. Next, on the 20th of this month, he squared off with the undefeated Ricardo McCall in Texas, USA, where he came up short.

Bruno hadn’t fought in MMA since 2006, when he suffered a setback to the then-up-and-coming Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares. In an exclusive interview, Bastos shared the lessons he learned in the ring, spoke of his expectations for the Copa Pódio Jiu-Jitsu Championship, and heaped praise on a special competitor of his: Xande Ribeiro. Check out what he had to say:

GRACIEMAG: What was missing for you to beat McCall? Is he really all that tough?

BRUNO BASTOS: Right, well I did win the first round; I just couldn’t get much going by way of submissions. I had a guillotine in tight but was afraid to risk ending up on bottom, so I opted to just win the round. In the second round, I tried taking him down and ended up stuck up against the fencing trying a single-leg. And to be honest, I lacked experience: rather than get out and try something else, I stayed there the whole round trying to take him down and wasted a lot of energy. I went back tired for the last round, when he defended my takedown attempt and hit me until the ref stepped in.

What did you learn from this MMA fight?

I learned that I need to do a better job of controlling the adrenaline. It’s really different from Jiu-Jitsu, and when something doesn’t go to plan, you have to use that control to create alternatives. A black belt in Jiu-Jitsu certainly doesn’t equate to a black belt in MMA (laughs).

Did you learn much from the training you did for the fights?

A lot. The training was awesome. We did a seven-week training camp where I worked a lot on standup with the UFC veteran Paul Buentello. After that I did another two weeks with my black belt Stanislav Nedkov, working on everything but focusing mostly on wrestling. Over the last two weeks, I ironed out my Jiu-Jitsu with my brother Ricardo.

You hadn’t fought in MMA since 2006. What’s your assessment of your return?

In Bulgaria I won by submission in the first round, and after that I fought in Texas. Bunching the two fights together, I feel it was overall positive because I went through situations that make me a better trainer for my students, not to mention the fact I’ll be able to use what I learned in my next fights. I want to fight again next year. Of course it would be great to make it to the UFC or Bellator; but my objective is really to just be a better and more well-rounded martial artist so I can share the skills with others. I think I’m always going to compete. It was you guys at who started calling me “Highlander”, wasn’t it (laughs).

In January you’ll be traveling to Rio for the Copa Pódio Jiu-Jitsu event. What have you got planned for when you take on Xande and the new generation of heavyweights?

Well, I’m getting old… But it will certainly be an honor to be among the top guys currently competing. Next year I’ll have completed 23 years of Jiu-Jitsu. Rodolfo will be turning 23 years of age… And then there’s João Gabriel, who’s even younger still. To make it to this level after competing for so long, to be recognized as a good fighter, that in itself makes me really happy. If you stop to think about it, I was invited to the ADCC in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and 2011, and now I’m invited to Copa Pódio. I’ve been doing a good, proper job, and that’s why I’m being rewarded with a chance to compete against the greats like Xande Ribeiro, who in my opinion is the best competitor in history. No one has won as much as he has. So I see myself as being ready to make history come January 13. And that’s how I see myself fitting in on this card.

What do you have planned for the rest of the season?

I’m going to compete at the No-Gi Worlds on the 3rd and 4th and at the Long Beach Open on December 8 to try and rack up enough points on the IBJJF ranking to get myself into the Pro League. I don’t want to miss out on this IBJJF effort to make an event where athletes get paid, after all these years. I also want to use the series of competitions to get me in tip-top shape for Copa Pódio. The No-Gi Worlds is important since next year is an ADCC year, and I want to compete there one last time.

How did your brother Ricardo manage to be so good on his return, making it to the final with Xande at the Masters Worlds? Was there some secret involved?

He just fought the way he trains. He was always considered a major promise at Nova União, but for reasons life put in our way, only now did he show his potential. And I can tell you that this isn’t the half of it. He won silver this time, but next year he’s going to fight for the world title at adult. He’s only 30 years old and still has at least three more years at the highest level if he keeps taking care of himself like he is now. I’m really proud of him. Everyone knows he had a good appearance; but he isn’t 100% prepared yet. Wait and you’ll see; this isn’t just a brother making promises.


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