João Assis (CheckMat) didn’t give his opponents a chance at last Saturday’s Grapplers Quest, held at the UFC Fan Expo.
GRACIEMAG.com had a chate with the Leo Vieira black belt now living in the United States, where he teaches at Team Quest and trains with superstar Dan Henderson. João forewarns that he won’t venture into the absolute division at the World Championship in Long Beach, but he’s all set to take on the heavyweights.
How did the Grapplers Quest at the UFC Fan Expo go?
There were a lot of people competing at black belt. I only had two matches in the heavyweight division, and I won both – there were no big names. But the absolute had Ricco Rodriguez, Jeff Monson and Bill Cooper! So I can say it was no easy ride.
Thank God I got the finish in all five matches. Grapplers Quest matches are quicker; a lot of the rules are different from IBJJF tournaments. Heel hooks are allowed, so a lot of folks go for the foot, and when you defend they go for the heel. And the match duration is six minutes.
Winning a tournament like this one is perfect for getting students into the academy” João Assis
How did you match with Bill Cooper go?
It went well. I feel my wrestling was fundamental. For training at Team Quest I get to train with a lot of great champions – there’s a state champion, Olympic medalist, national champion, world champion. That gives me a good base. Bill Cooper is really explosive; his greatest trait is perhaps his explosiveness, so at the start of the match I just studied his game to see what he’d try and do. He tried those guillotines of his, leaping at the head, and some takedowns. When I felt there was an opening, I took him down and landed in his half-guard. He tried to make a move and I went straight to his side and took his back, and stayed there nearly the entire match. At one point he tried to get out by removing my hook, but I put it back and scored another four points to win 10 to 0.
What about your rear-naked choke on Jeff Monson?
It was great; Jeff didn’t get to do anything… He faked going for one takedown or another, but I went straight in and took him down. He tried to get up but couldn’t, and called me into his half-guard. But at CheckMat we play half-guard all day, so I was fine, comfortable. As soon as I got a chance to I passed, he turned to all fours and I mounted his back. I finished up with a rear-naked choke three minutes into the match.
Will you enter the absolute division at the Worlds this weekend?
I’m only entering the heavyweight division at the Worlds. There are a lot of my teammates going and only two can be in the absolute, and I’m not one of the older black belts. It’ll probably be [Rodrigo] Cavaca and one more. I also haven’t been training as much in the gi.
Werdum is a monster. If Fedor blinks, Werdum takes it” João Assis
How’s life at Team Quest?
I’m training a lot of MMA and MMA-focused wrestling. I also train muay thai geared towards MMA at the Affliction training center. Team Quest is just like anywhere else. Really good training happens when Dan Henderson is getting ready for a fight, since everyone goes to those, plus the outsiders Dan calls on.
The mood is awesome, and I have special affections for the academy because they did everything for me here in the United States. They got me my visa, gave me my car, helped with my housing.
Plus there’s high-level wrestling. Sometimes the secret is not just to get the takedown; often it’s best to not go to the ground, to defend the takedown well. And these days my sprawl timing is up to speed.
How is training with Werdum going for his fight with Fedor at the June 26 Strikeforce show?
Werdum is a beast. If Fedor blinks, Werdum takes it. We’re also training with Rafael Cordeiro, a guy who’s produced anumber of MMA legends like Anderson Silva, Wanderlei, Pelé, Shogun. I’ve been training with them just once a week because of the distance. My game is still geared to Jiu-Jitsu, but I’ve been adding a lot of good stuff.
What are your plans for the future?
I have an MMA fight one week after the Worlds; that’s why I’m not training in the gi as much as I should. Nowadays I have a family and rent to pay, so I have to focus on where the money is.