A Gracie Barra representative who spent years doing good service for the team in major competitions, Bruno Fernandes heads a GB branch in Montreal. Among his many students is the illustrious Georges St.-Pierre, the welterweight champion of the UFC and considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. In the following interview, Bruno speaks of how his black belt GSP’s Jiu-Jitsu training is going, what they’re doing to prepare to face Josh Koscheck at UFC 124, and how three-time absolute world champion Roger Gracie helped in everything.
Tell us a bit about how work is going up there in Canada…
I’ve been here in Canada since 2005 and started teaching Jiu-Jitsu a few years after my arrival. It was really rough because I was studying at the time, I didn’t have an academy, and there wasn’t much Gi Jiu-Jitsu around. But little by little I put together a group of fighters, including George St.-Pierre. We set up semi-private lessons. During this time, I also had to move to Toronto, but when I got back to Montreal and life slowed down a bit for me, I was able to open a Gracie Barra affiliate. We’re about to complete one year and all is well. I already have some students at a good level to compete in 2011 and I hope to see them giving the others a hard time!
What’s your relationship with Georges St.-Pierre like? How is his Jiu-Jitsu training going?
GSP already practiced Jiu-Jitsu before we met, despite the difficulties in finding training. His first contact with the art was through Wagnney Fabiano, who at the time was teaching here in Montreal. After some time Georges started going to New York to train at Renzo Gracie academy in Manhattan. That just illustrates how determination is a quality vital to the success of a fighter. Often he would drive from Montreal to New York at night, train the whole day and return home driving. He always sought out the best from each sport and the result is what we see today. He always liked the gi. Coming from a karate background, he has an enviable notion of discipline. GSP is always open to new techniques to add to his game. He doesn’t think much about MMA when he practices Jiu-Jitsu, just about improving his ground game. When it gets close to fight time, then his training changes a bit, adapting his game to the rules of the octagon. Although he is known for his top game, he has a really good guard too. The “problem” is that he always take his opponents down, so it’s rare you’ll see him play guard in the UFC.
Can you tell us something about how he’s training Jiu-Jitsu for his fight with Josh Koscheck. Is he putting a lot of emphasis on his ground game?
A lot. He’s been working a lot on his grappling, focusing on controlling his opponent, keeping them in uncomfortable situations, and calmly finishing. Roger Gracie’s visit here was perfect because it’s precisely the type of game we expect him to use. This Koscheck fight will impress a lot of people!
What was the meeting between GSP and Roger Gracie like?
It was very productive for both sides Roger stayed here a week accompanying Georges’s training, including his boxing, wrestling, physical conditioning, and muay thai. And Roger helped improve his ground game even more, correcting minor details that will make a major difference in this next fight.
Roger conducted a seminar there. How was it?
Excellent. It was the first time I had to turn people away because there just wasn’t room on the mat. It was great to have someone like Roger here to help me and convince my beginning students of the importance of improving in Jiu-Jitsu and focusing on the basics. Roger demonstrated in detail everything he puts to practice.
How do you see the state of Jiu-Jitsu in Canada today?
Canada is a sparsely populated country. To give you an idea, the population of the second largest country in the world is smaller than that of California, in the USA, alone. That makes it harder for Jiu-Jitsu to spread, as having an academy in most cities is unviable. Of course the cold here makes it hard to bring in qualified instructors. But despite it all, I see Jiu-Jitsu growing a lot around these parts and in a few years we’ll see Canadians on the winners’ stands at international competitions.