Yes, 2010 has been Pablo “Weapon X” Popovitch’s year. He won the 2010 Pan-American No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu Championship in New York both in his division and in the absolute (he closed out the division with teammate Marcus Bochecha), he was Copa America No-Gi and Gi absolute Champion, he won the Grapplers Quest – UFC Expo superfight against Lucas Lepri (Lepri just won the lightweight division at the 2010 No-Gi Worlds) in Boston, and he won the huge VIC tournament in Europe, both in his division and in the absolute. He fought eight matches in one day. “I fought from 2 p.m. until midnight,” he says.
Popovitch gets back mount on his way to winning No-Gi Worlds. Photo: John Lamonica.
Popovitch made his professional MMA debut as part of the co-main event against Jeff Savoy at Rock and Rumble 3 at Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel, winning via TKO in the 2nd Round. “I took his back and started punching him in the face,” he says, “He tapped during my striking. I broke his orbital bone.”
Another big accomplishment this year was being inducted into The Grappling Hall Of Fame By the North American Grappling Association, N.A.G.A. “It’s a huge thing,” he says, “They contacted me about it and I was so honored.”
Popovitch is also the inspiration behind his and Cyborg Abreu’s new Jiu-Jitsu team, The Avengers. They have about fifteen black belts training together, including Rodrigo Cavaca’s CheckMat team, called The Armory, who train with them as well about two or three times a week. The team they’re all building together is becoming a superpower on the tournament circuit. Because of this, in these tournaments, when they all rise to the top together, he says they have to be humble and give each other credit. “You can’t win by yourself,” he says, “You have to help each other out.”
And help each other out is what they did at the 2010 No-Gi Worlds. After winning gold and world champion status in his middleweight division, Popovitch then closed out the absolute division with Cyborg and Marcus Bochecha, and Cyborg took the title. “I love those guys,” he says, “We make it fair for everyone.”
Popovitch has been undefeated since 2007. Since 2003, he’s lost only twice and both times were to Marcelo Garcia, once in 2005 and once in 2007. In 2009, Popovitch was able to beat Garcia at the ADCC. “I hope to face him again in 2011,” Popovitch says, “He is my toughest opponent ever. I love competing against him. I love the challenge. He lets me know how far I’ve come in my game. He makes me work really hard.”
As for his undefeated record, Popovitch says he needs to reflect on what it means to him because it may cause him to hold back on his Jiu-Jitsu when he could throw himself into it more. “Being undefeated, I think about my record,” he says, “I try to transfer it into training harder. Anyone can make a mistake and get caught. Some matches I think I could do more but I don’t because I want to keep the record going. It does take away from my Jiu-Jitsu in tournaments for sure. In some matches I could really let it go but I play it safe, so as not to fall into danger. Jiu-Jitsu is like a chess match. You make a mistake, you lose. I just try not to put that much pressure on myself.”
Popovitch displaying his exceptional strength in photo by John Lamonica
At the No-Gi Worlds, Popovitch looked calm and composed. He had three matches in his division. He won his first match on points. In his second, he faced Murilo Santana of Barbosa JJ, and won on points. “He’s really tough,” Popovitch says.
In the finals, Popovitch squared off with Daniel Moraes of Relson Gracie in a very exciting display of Jiu-Jitsu. “He’s super tough,” Popvitch says, “He’s a four-time world champion. I took him down, took his back, and almost choked him, but he defended.” The two stood up and Moraes pulled guard. “I passed and was able to take his back twice during the match,” Popovitch says. The match ended with Popovitch pulling off a 6-0 victory.
In the absolute, Popovitch had two matches before closing out the division with his teammates. His first fight was with Ben Baxter, whom he submitted with a choke. In his second match, he took on Gracie Barra’s Flavio Almeida and beat him 2-0 with a takedown.
Then Cyborg, Cavaca, Bochecha, and Popovitch conferred at the edge of the mats and, while there was a lot of talking and laughing going on, it was obvious that it was tough for him to take the “loss” they had agreed upon. But Popovitch smiled as he stepped onto the mats and let his friend and teammate Bochecha take the win, who in turn gave it to Cyborg. “I don’t like to lose at anything,” he laughs.
Popovitch wants to dedicate his win to his parents. “They’ve always supported me,” he says, “My dad’s a black belt, too. I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu since I was four years old.” Many may not know that Popovitch is cousins with some of the Gracie’s and grew up in Brazil living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” he says.
Tired from a long year of competing, Popovitch says he needs a break, but he’s going to come out strong in 2011. “My goal for 2011 is to win every single gi and no-gi tournament.” With his above-average strength, speed, dedication, and focus, along with a near-perfect record, “Weapon X” should have no problem attaining those objectives.