Final stretch in training at Alliance in São Paulo, Brazil. On the mat Rubens Cobrinha and Lucas Lepri battle it out in a frenetic sparring session, giving their all to show up at the Worlds in Long Beach in tip-top shape. Nearby, wearing an unenthusiastic expression, Michael Langhi did some light work with a blue belt just to keep in shape. It was Langhi’s drama, a drama that the team covered up. Until now.
After the Pan, Michael Langhi’s shoulder started popping out of place all the time, due to an injury sustained at the end of November. Even so his training partners believed in his winning his second title and encouraged him, while he even toyed with the idea of giving up.
“I didn’t treat my shoulder the way I should have; I didn’t do what needed to be done, and I paid the price. I fought at the European championship with water in my shoulder,” he recounts by phone, while awaiting his connection for São Paulo at Dallas airport.
“Only God knows what I went through. I went a month and a half without training Jiu-Jitsu; all I did was shoulder-strengthening work with my conditioning coach Edson Ramalho, and lots of physiotherapy. I could only work in the gi and practice positions with blue belts. I’m also really grateful to Bruno Malfacine (roosterweight world champion), who interrupted his heavy training for the Worlds to work on positions with me,” says two-time world champion Langhi, who has only one explanation for how everything turned out ok: “It was the hand of God.”
“To give you an idea, my shoulder didn’t hurt during any of my five matches. You want to know when it started hurting? When I raised my arm in celebration. Can you believe it?”
Sure we can. Langhi kicked off his campaign on the way to his second world title with quick submissions in his first two matches. Now on Sunday… “It was that hard road I told you about before traveling; everyone going strong, all candidates for the title. First I beat Rafael Formiga by two advantages, ending with a triangle in place. Then I got past Gilbert Durinho, who had gone unbeaten ever since the final we were in at last year’s Worlds. He’s a monster. My strategy was to try and spare my shoulder until the final, and give it my all to get the gold in the decider. The only way I could lose there was if they yanked my shoulder out,” he says.
On the final, Langhi has nothing but praise for his opponent, three-time world champion Celsinho Venícius.
“He has a really solid base, and my tactic was to try and throw him off balance and get an advantage point. The refs didn’t give me the advantage but the move was convinced them nevertheless. Celsinho needs no introduction, nothing needs to be said about him. It was a pleasure to compete against him, and winning was fantastic. So, in the end the 2010 Worlds was a life’s test, yet another lesson and it demonstrated the importance of your mental state when competing,” he says in finishing, getting ready to operate on the coming 24th.