Businessman, ex-goal keeper and fighter: meet Brazil’s no-gi absolute champion

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Victor celebrates winning absolute. Photo: Carlos Ozório.

The Brazilian No-Gi Nationals 2010 saw Victor Costa crowned champion of the main category. The CheckMat representative beat four opponents in making it to the highest spot on the winners’ stand, nabbing his second medal of the day. Earlier, in the superheavyweight division, he forsook competing in the final to save energy for the absolute.

An illustrious figure among the competitors? The black belt doesn’t see himself that way, despite his background being somewhat different from his opponents’. Before getting involved in the gentle art, up until he was eighteen, he was dedicated to soccer. He was a goal keeper who even figured on the professional team of São Paulo’s São Caetano soccer club. After that, he became the businessman behind the Koral Kimonos brand. From there on out, his involvement in Jiu-Jitsu became so intense that practicing and competing in the sport became his destiny.

Get to know a bit more about Victor Costa in this interview:

Did you imagine you’d do so well at the No-Gi Nationals?

I competed at the No-Gi Pan and that marked my competition return. I was lucky to only have one match, because I wasn’t that well prepared, I’d been away from competition for a long time. But I won and that picked up my spirits a lot. I knew the Brazilian Nationals was coming up at the end of the month and so I started to believe I could win it. I never imagined I’d make it so far in the absolute, but I knew I could do well.

Submission in absolute final. Photo: Carlos Ozório.

When did you start believing you could actually win the main division?

When I won my first match in the absolute, I got to talking with Chico Mendes, one of the coaches at CheckMat, and we saw it could work. I concentrated and started thinking about making it to the final. I was really confident in my second match; I fought well and got the finish. The semifinal against Theodoro Canal was rough. He’s a really technical athlete, really quick and it was a hard match, but I won. Capoeira (Nilson Ricardo), my opponent in the final, had lost to the same fighter I beat at weight. So I was confident, didn’t want to squander the chance, and I went into the match focused.

How do you manage to reconcile business with proper competition training?

First comes my love for Jiu-Jitsu, my desire to compete. I was a soccer player, turned professional at eighteen, but there was a lot of politics involved and I ended up sort of abandoned. I started Koral with my brother and, then, started training Jiu-Jitsu. I saw it as an individual sport, where we depend much more on ourselves. As I always had a drive to win, it was the perfect union. I won the world championship as a brown belt, but after getting my black, I kind of dropped out.

Photo: personal archive.

What has Jiu-Jitsu changed in your life?

Jiu-Jitsu made me a more focused and dedicated person. There’s always time for training on my agenda! Ever since I started Koral fourteen years ago, I’ve made loads of friends through Jiu-Jitsu. The folks on my team are great. They all help me and provide me incentive in competing. I stayed in Florida with Rodrigo Cavaca, who I admire a great deal. I was at Nino Schembri’s academy and the guy took off his gi to help me prepare for the Pan. So I know people wherever I go. It’s a family for everyone and I feel privileged in that respect.

What’s your relationship with the other competitors like? Do they treat you any differently for your being a businessman who works in the fight world?

I feel it’s normal. All athletes these days have a very professional mentality and they know how to separate things. In the warm-up area, they all know I’m just another competitor, and I see it like that, too. I’ve faced athletes who I sponsor before and it was real professional. I’m a laid back guy, I respect everyone and feel it’s just a normal situation.

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