Cavaca and the secrets behind his deadly footlock

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There were a lot of standouts at the 2010 Jiu-Jitsu World Championship, one of the most hotly-disputed since the inaugural event, in 1996. And, among other standouts, it’s worth highlighting the participation of Rodrigo Cavaca. The CheckMat representative winner of the ultraheavyweight division got the tapout in seven of his eight matches. The only one not to succumb was three-time absolute champion Roger Gracie in the semifinal of the absolute division, which Cavaca took third in.

Cavaca celebrates triumph over Cyborg. Photo: Ivan Trindade

Check out the chat GRACIEMAG.com had with the ultraheavyweight:

How did your campaign at the Worlds go?

I had four matches at weight and four in the absolute, and I got the submission in seven of them. The only one I didn’t finish was the one I lost to Roger Gracie, in the absolute semifinal.

What does finally winning this title as a black belt mean to you?

It was a dream come true, my objective. It still hasn’t hit me yet! I’d already told you before the Worlds and the Brazilian Nationals that I’d been training a lot for this, that I was coming in much better prepared than I was last year. I’d been doing well this year; I made it to the final in all the CBJJ and IBJJF championships I was in. That motivated me a lot and worked in my favor psychologically. Not to mention the prep-work I did with Marcelo, who is my physical conditioning coach in Santos, with my physiotherapist Bruno and nutritionist Marcelo Ferro. We did good work in getting here.

How do you feel about the level of competition?

This was one of the fullest and toughest Worlds, mainly in the ultraheavyweight division. There was me, Gabriel Vella, Big Mac, Corleta, Pé de Pano, Cyborg. All of them had the same chances of winning. I went by them one by one and, when I realized what had happened, I was in the final.

Speaking of Roberto Cyborg, who also caught attention at the Worlds, you two have faced off on two occasions…

I fought Cyborg in the quarterfinals of the absolute. He didn’t let me carry out my game plan, which is to play guard, but I managed to sink a footlock on him in 15 seconds. That was a surprise and worked in my favor psychologically and must have shaken him up some. The weight group final was exciting, a really tough match. I ended up getting the finish from the same position and on the same foot.

In the final of the Brazilian Nationals, Igor Silva fell victim to the footlock. Photo: Gustavo Aragão

That foot hold helped a lot. Is it true you learned it from Hillary Williams’s teacher?

That’s right. And he’s right next to me now! He’s Roli Delgado, who’s fought three times in the UFC. I trained with him here in February and he taught me several details about the position, ironed my game out a lot. He noticed I do the 50/50 a lot and he me make a lot of adjustments. For sure, for what he showed me, a big part of this conquest is his. I got the sub in the final of the Brazilian Nationals with this hold and, of the seven finishes I came up with at the Worlds, five were with this hold. I am very grateful to him.

In the old days the footlock was frowned upon in Jiu-Jitsu, but things have changed. What are your thoughts on that?

During my time the footlock was highly criticized, too. I did it once as a purple belt and the guy ended up reversing and beating me. I told myself I’d never do a straight footlock on anyone anymore and stopped attacking with it. But my game changed a lot as a black belt; I started doing the 50/50 guard and from there you can attack the foot a lot. I started studying the details; my friends helped me with the adjustments and Roli Delgado to. These days public perception has changed and everyone praises me for it. There are guys who even want to schedule seminars just on footlocks! It will be fun! Another thing is that people say doing the 50/50 guard is stalling, but I proved once again that it’s not so. I subbed everyone from the 50/50.

I’d like to thank GRACIEMAG for all the support it’s been giving me and my students. Thanks! I’d also like to thank the sponsors who backed me for this Worlds.

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