Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa has been teaching in Connecticut since the end of 2010. From there, he grabbed his car and drove over to the New York Open looking to make his mark. With wife Elisa at the wheel, it took them 45 minutes to make it to where he would have his crowning achievement.
A lightweight who always places at the top of whatever championships he’s in, Formiga won the absolute division at an IBJJF tournament for the first time, overcoming Guybson Sá in the final. In third place, Formiga’s training partner at Soul Fighters Diego Santana and Tiago Almeida (Gracie Humaitá).
“I’m stoked. It all went according to plan and I won. Now I plan to be at all the Open tourneys out there, since they get your name out there and can yield sponsorship offers. My greater goal is, of course, the Worlds, in June. Last year I lost to JT (Jonathan Torres) via advantage points, and this year I want to do better,” he states.
“I’ve even talked to JT, we might train together after the Worlds. I should move up to middleweight due to the difficulty I’m having making weight. It will be cool, since that way I’ll also be able to train with Lucas Lepri (Alliance NYC’s former lightweight world champion). The academy is doing great, but I there’s always a need for tough training partners. So far my group is at purple belt,” says the absolute champ.
In winning the NY Open absolute division, Formiga had three matches – besides one in the lightweight division, which he closed out with training partner Ítalo Silva (GFTeam). At open weight he got the tapout in the first, scored 2-0 in the second, and scored 8 points in the final.
So now will the fighter be taking a break? Not a chance. “On April 30 I’ll compete at the American Cup, in San Jose, where I’ll be targeting weight and open weight gold,” remarked Rafael.
Besides Formiga, other standouts at the NY Open were Gabriel Napão, winning the master division, and Admilson Juquinha (Gracie Humaita), who beat Carlos Alberto Terrinha (Gracie Barra) in the final of the absolute senior 2 division. Talented local Gianni Grippo (Renzo) nabbed another gold medal for himself at purple belt.
Giacomo Zaninr (Ribeiro JJ) won the brown belt division, Malcom Vaughn (Lloyd Irvin) won at purple, and Tye Murphy (Lloyd Irvin) won the open weight blue belt division.