Lightweight competitor Augusto Mendes (Soul Fighters) had seven matches at last weekend’s South American Open. The highlight of the campaign was his two wins over “rival” Mário Reis (Gracie Barra), but it was no cake walk getting there for Tanquinho.
“I only faced bigger guys in the four matches I had in the absolute. The semifinal was tough, against Nivaldo Lima (CheckMat), who won the heavyweight division. I had two sweeps to one from him,” recalls the absolute champion, who earned the ticket to Lisbon for the Euro Open 2011 that was up for grabs.
There was an extra ingredient to the final. Anyone used to covering featherweight Mário Reis’s Jiu-Jitsu matches up close knows how he is always getting testy with referees, as he has with Tanquinho as a referee several times.
When the two finally met, in Santa Catarina, all that was left in the past. “Mário is a great fighter, a two-time world champion, and I didn’t go into the match thinking about any of that. There was nothing in any way personal involved. That’s how Mário is, and the truth is that we understand how fighters get unhappy when they lose,” remarked Tanquinho.
“When you compete against someone like him, who attacks the whole time, it’s great for the spectators, but a lot trickier for me. I had to stay alert, since he attacks the whole time, making the finals more dynamic. I came up with the better positions and won. The lightweight final I won by advantage points,” said the champion after three matches, in summary. Now in the absolute, Reis was disqualified by the referee. Even só, Mário’s points still helped Gracie Barra win the overall team contest.
“It was the first absolute gold medal of my career, but I think I’ve entered four, five at max: once at blue belt, once recently at the US Open in Santa Cruz, and now,” remembers Tanquinho. “It was a pleasant surprise, a sign of maturation as well. In the final, I went advancing through positions and notching advantages because he was holding the inside of the lip of my pants leg, then the penalties turned into points until he was disqualified. I think he accepted that, he really was gripping that way.”
With the absolute title, the Soul Fighters black belt won a ticket to compete at the IBJJF European Open that the organizers and sponsors of the South American Open gave as a prize. “I’m guaranteed to be there in Portugal. Whether I’ll compete in the absolute or not, I can’t guarantee,” he jokes.
A second plane ticket to Lisbon was raffled out among the other champions. The lucky winner was Elizângela Meireles (Gavião), winner of the light featherweight division and bronze in the absolute.
“There was a high level of technique on display in the championship, with two light athletes imposing themselves on the heavyweights and going through to the absolute final. There were more than 750 signed up, with athletes from the USA, Europe, and elsewhere, and there was even a special about the event on TV Globo channel; everyone saw it. São José, in Santa Catarina, has established itself as home to the South American Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” said event organizer Claudio Arrais in praise of the town.