Gracie Barra Cerritos opened its doors on October 18, 2008. Now, one year later, Professor Renato “Babalu” Sobral is celebrating his school’s one-year anniversary. In one short year, Professor Babalu has amassed over 200 students who train in gi, no-gi and muay thai.
As most know, Babalu not only owns and operates GB Cerritos, but he is also a contracted MMA fighter. Many people who initially come to his school check it out because they know his name and want to learn MMA fighting. However, once they visit the school and get to know the staff, they are surprised to find out that this Gracie Barra school is no different from other Gracie Barra schools.
Program director Adam Nance says, “Once people see how family-oriented our school is, they are happier learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu than the MMA fighting they originally came in for. They quickly learn that we have the same mentality and curriculum as the other GB schools and that we are a part of the same GB family.” He further adds, “Professor Babalu teaches the kids classes and parents love watching their kids do them. Professor Babalu is a nice, genuine person and a wonderful instructor.”
About 75 people came to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the school, including Master Carlos. The event included a one-hour no gi class, a BBQ after and a bounce house for the kids. They also had giveaways of uniforms and private lessons. Babalu said he wanted to “give back to his students for them getting us here.”
As he gave his speech thanking everyone for their patronage and support, he talked about his life and his future, “I thought about what I wanted to do with my life after fighting… Did I want to open a Jamba Juice or a Starbucks? No! I knew I wanted to do what I have done my whole life: Jiu-Jitsu. I wanted to give back to people here on the carpet. This school has changed my life. I decided I wanted to give all my knowledge back to my students, knowing that it would all come back to me. I wanted to see my future – I planted the seeds here.”
Babalu went on to thank his business partner and manager, Richard Wilner and then his black belt friend and instructor, Dande, “Dande helped me build this school. Without him, I wouldn’t be here. We are going to expand this school all the way out to the church down the street. Then we’re going to win all the tournaments!”
As the professor ended his speech, he looked around and took in the vision of all his students and their families crowded around his gym, “Before my fights, I am excited. When they are over, I crash and feel empty inside. Here, I am always fulfilled and happy. Thank you for allowing me to teach and practice Jiu-Jitsu until I die an old man.”