“If you can’t spare one hour of your day to do something you love, there really is something wrong in your life”

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Thirty-one years old may not seem young to many of you, but how long do you think it takes to graduate from medical school, complete a residency in Ophthalmology, then sub-specialize in Ocular Oncology (eye cancer) and Pathology (eye diseases)? Beyond getting an M.D., to obtain a PhD and then become a professor at one of Canada’s most prestigious medical institutions? In conjunction with that, how long would it take you to get your black belt, and become good enough to become a 4-time World Champion and then be asked to train the likes of….let’s say, UFC World Champion Georges St. Pierre and award him his black belt? Did I mention that this 31-year-old is opening his own Gracie Barra School in Montreal, Canada in January 2010?

Dr. Bruno makes a speech at ophthalmology convention in Uruguay. Photo: Panamerican Ophthalmology Association

Dr. Bruno makes a speech at ophthalmology convention in Uruguay. Photo: Panamerican Ophthalmology Association

Although you still may not think that 31 is that young, when you look at all these accomplishments, I’m sure you would agree that it is very young to have reached so many laudable goals in life. Some people work their whole lives to accomplish just one of these milestones, but Bruno Fernandes has achieved them all, and I can tell he’s not finished yet. Oh, and just to annoy those of you who think he must be lacking somewhere, I have to inform you that he speaks four languages, is an avid surfer, is friendly, engaging and very handsome, too! Sorry guys.

Fernandes began practicing BJJ at 11 years of age. He started with Carlson Gracie, but switched to GB at 16 as a blue belt and has been with them ever since, because he “loved Gracie Barra immediately.” Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. awarded him his black belt in Rio de Janeiro, after he won the World Championship as a brown belt in 2000.

Fernandes is a multiple-time Brazilian National Champion and 4-time World Champion and says, “I grew up doing BJJ. It’s now a part of my life and me. I see BJJ as a lifestyle. I embraced it a long time ago and now it just can’t be changed.” People always ask Fernandes how he finds the time to balance BJJ and his professional/academic career, “I don’t know how I could do it all without it! In Brazil, going to the gym was the best part of my day. I would get my physical exercise, meet my friends, unwind after a stressful day, and forget about the problems I had, all at the same time and place. I tell people that if you can’t spare one hour of your day to something you love, there really is something wrong with the way you manage your time!”

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Bruno in his other professional uniform.

Fernandes is a professor on the mats, and off them, too, “I’m a Professor at Mc Gill University in the Department of Ophthalmology andPathology. I do research most of the time, but I also teach medical students and residents. I work closely with graduate students and supervise master and PhD theses.” Fernandes says he loves to teach, “It gives me great pleasure to see my students improving at the University, and on the mats as well.”

When Fernandes first moved to Montreal, Canada in 2005, his intention was not to pursue BJJ, “Teaching BJJ in Montreal was not in my plans when I moved. My goal was to pursue my PhD degree. However, as the interest in BJJ grew in Montreal, some people found me and started asking me to teach them. It started as a small group, and hasn’t stopped growing since then.”

Fernandes has been teaching BJJ at Tri-Star Gym in Montreal for some time. Tri-Star students discovered he was living in Montreal from the Gracie Family in New York. They contacted him and asked if he would teach them BJJ. That’s where he met Georges St. Pierre, “I had a group of 3 or 4 students. GSP was there from the beginning.” As their relationship grew, GSP asked Fernandes to be his BJJ coach, which he is to this day. In fact, Fernandes awarded GSP his black belt in 2008, “GSP is every coach’s dream. He’s extremely intelligent, respectful and always eager to learn. He picks things up fast and adapts all BJJ moves we work on into his MMA game. It’s extremely rewarding to see him doing things in the octagon the same way he was taught. I think he will continue to be on top for a long time.”

Georges St-Pierre (left) with Professor Fernandes after UFC champ promoted to black belt. Photo: Personal archive

Georges St-Pierre (left) with Professor Fernandes after UFC champ promoted to black belt.

Fernandes is most excited about his new GB school opening in Montreal in January 2010, “It’s a true honor to be able to open a GB school. It’s great when you believe in the same values as the team you represent. We see BJJ differently than other teams and I believe that this is what makes us strong and keeps us together.” Fernandes says he’s wanted to open a GB school from the first day he moved to Montreal, “First I had to finish my thesis and then I had to spend a year in Toronto. My future was so uncertain that I couldn’t make long-term plans, but I moved back to Montreal last summer and now I plan to stay for quite some time.” Fernandes says he loves the city of Montreal and has made some really good friends there.

As for GB Montreal, he says, “It’s awesome! I had the chance to visit GB San Clemente and GB San Diego, in California, and I got a lot of great ideas. I want GB Montreal to have the same type of environment that we had back in the days in Rio. It opens January 11, 2010 and I have very high hopes for it.”

Group at Tri-Star Academy. Photo: Personal archive

Group at Tri-Star Academy. Photos: Personal archive

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