The black belts came out in force at the 2011 Pan over the March 26 and 27 weekend in Irvine. In the roosterweight division, the two “nicest guys” in Jiu-Jitsu, Rafael “Barata” Freitas of Gracie Barra New Mexico and Felipe Costa of Brasa, paired off in the finals. “I love him,” Barata says smiling his trademark smile, “He’s such a nice guy.” As much as Barata may like Costa, he showed no mercy as they fought it out throughout the ten-minute match.
“I took him down, then he swept me and I swept him back,” Barata says, “He put me in his half guard. He confused me with his game. He has really strong grips and he put me in a 50/50, but he crossed my leg. The referee didn’t say anything because he put his leg there, not me. We were locked the whole time. I don’t like that game.” Costa then swept Barata and the match became more aggressive as it was tied 4-4. In the end, the referees conferred and gave the match to Barata, giving him his first ever Pan gold medal win.
“I always fight light feather,” Barata says, “But I popped a rib and it’s still really bad. Light feather is one of the toughest divisions, so I decided to go lower and lighter and fight rooster weight so I could handle my rib.” Barata says fighting in the 2011 Pan was a great experience. “I’ve been working for this for a long time. I wanted to win. I’m super happy.”
Barata dedicated his win to his mom who was watching his match in Brazil. “I haven’t seen her in four years,” he says, “I called her before my match and said, ‘today is going to be my day.’” And it was. Barata has more to look forward to in the near future. He just passed The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) tryouts. “I’m waiting for them to call me to see if I get in or not.” Maybe his big win at the prestigious Pan will help his chances of getting in the house.
In the light feather division, the bracket was stacked, and in the end, it was Caio Terra and Bruno Malfacine who faced off in the finals. The rivalry between the two stars guaranteed an exciting match for the audience. At one point during the match, Terra got Malfacine in a foot lock and Malfacine tried to escape and the two rolled out of bounds. Terra was awarded two points, and those points were the edge Terra needed to claim gold when the buzzer went off after a 10-minute war.
Terra said, “This took a lot of weight off my shoulders. This time I was blessed with a win.” Terra says he now needs to go back home and heal from a few injuries he’s incurred over the last few months. “I need to heal by the Worlds, so I can compete, and then when the competition season is over, I will have surgery. I’ve been training since last year for the Pan Ams. I wanted to do something good in the absolute. When I come here my main goal is to fight, but unfortunately, I got hurt, so I won’t be doing any absolutes anytime soon.” Terra wants to dedicate his win to the people in Japan. “I hope God helps them all,” he says.
Outside of competitions, Terra has many goals for 2011. He’s avidly promoting his DVD on half guard. “There are 111 positions shown from the bottom,” he says, “All techniques are competition proven.” For more, check caioterra.com, his official FB Fan Page or his YouTube channel at caioterrabjj where you can find links to all his videos.
In the medium heavy division, André Galvão of Atos JJ came back from a long absence to happily claim gold at the 2011 Pan. In the Finals, he competed against Eduardo Santoro from Cia Paulista. Galvao says Santoro was really strong. “He’s a pretty tough guy,” he says, “He has a lot of experience.” Galvao ended up taking the match by one advantage point. When the match was over, his Atos team put him up on their shoulders and danced and sang, chanting, “Galvão’s back!”
Galvão declined doing the absolute. “I need to train more and fix some mistakes in my game,” he says. He also says he has not been 100% at any of his recent competitions. “I did the San Diego Abu Dhabi Pro Trials. I won, but I was only at about 40%. Three weeks from now, I will be 100% at the Worlds.” Galvão says he’s going to do some tournaments in between now and the Worlds to get his timing back. “I’ll do Fabricio’s (Werdum’s) tournament in May, some superfights and the Brazilian Nationals.”
As for his goals for 2011, Galvão says he wants to grow his name up in America. “I’m working hard to build my academy. I want to grow more students to teach.” He’s not quite done with MMA at this point. “At the end of the year I want to fight one more MMA fight, but I will never leave the gi again.”
Antonio Braga Neto of AB MMA came up with a big win in the ultra heavy division. He fought Antonio Peinado of Alliance and won with a sweep, 2-0. Braga Neto is very passionate about Jiu-Jitsu and considers himself a real student of the art. He started training in the sport at four years of age. “I want to show the art when I compete,” he says, “Most guys do strength for no reason. I think more about leverage and technique. The game is always my main thing. I’m always trying to improve myself and show the true beauty of Jiu-Jitsu.”
Braga Neto is looking forward to giving back to the community. “I come from really far away in Brazil and I was still able to get my success in Jiu-Jitsu. I just want to help other kids like me who want to be a champion. I want to show them it’s possible.”
In the female black belt feather division, Michelle Nicolini of Checkmat BJJ fought Fabiana Borges of Gracie Barra and was able to submit her in the finals. “That last match was tough,” Nicolini says, “Fabiana’s a great competitor. When I signed up for feather weight, I was thinking about her and her guard. It’s very good.” Feather is a new weight class for Nicolini. “It’s closer to my real weight,” she says, “It was good. I think I’ll stay at feather for my next competition.”
In the finals against Borges, Nicolini was losing by points and knew she needed to catch Borges in something. “I needed a sweep or a submission,” Nicolini says, “When she was in my guard, I caught her in an armbar.” Nicolini’s signature move is a foot lock and at one point in the match, she tried to submit Borges by going for her foot, but says, “She was smart and got out of it. I felt great today. When I got up this morning, I knew today was going to be my day.”