This weekend GRACIEMAG.com reporter Deb Blyth was at the CSU Long Beach Pyramid, where, to the fans’ delight, over thirty black belts showed up to compete at the Samurai Pro. Her account of the overall results were as follows:
In the over 205 lbs. weight class, Joao Assis took gold in his division against Ricardo “Demente” Abreu. Assis also won the absolute, making him the big winner – the Samurai – of the day.
In the 205 lbs. category, Romulo Barral was declared the winner over Andre Galvao.
In the 185 lbs. division, gold went to Clark Gracie after Kayron Gracie, who had won his first two bouts, gave him the win, taking himself out of the final because of a hamstring injury.
In the 165 lbs. division, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles came out on top over Philipe Della Monica.
All competitors won $3,000 for their first place finishes and claimed gold in a tournament packed with prestigious black belts.
Romulo Barral had a lot to prove at this tournament. Recently coming off knee surgery and coming in third at the Abu Dhabi’s, it was important for Barral to get a win in to get his mind back on track and his confidence up after such a difficult year.
At the Samurai Pro he had two matches. The first he won by bow-and-arrow choke. The second he won by points. In his final match up, he competed against Andre Galvao and he was honored. “For me, he is one of the best,” Barral says, “I’m a great fan of his. It was a great fight.”
Barral says he’s trying to get in as many tournaments as possible before appearing at the Worlds. “This win gave me my confidence back,” Barral beams, “I’m in good shape. I’m not worried about my knee. It’s 100%. I’m just trying to get my confidence back.”
Barral says his mind is the most important muscle he needs to work on now. “The body follows the mind,” he says, “If the mind is not 100%, nothing else matters.”
Barral enjoyed competing at the Samurai Pro. “It’s been a great experience here. Just to step on the mats makes you better.” Barral says his next goal is to be 100% for the Worlds – mentally and physically. There’s no one in particular he’s looking forward to fighting. He knows he’s going to have great fights no matter what. “Everybody at the Worlds is a great competitor,” he says, “It just feels good to fight the best guys.”
Clark Gracie had two matches at the Samurai Pro. The first was against Marco “Sharpei” Machado, and Gracie won with a choke. The second match was against Bill Cooper, and Gracie won that by points.
“Marco put a lot of pressure on top,” Gracie says, “I was able to fix my position on the bottom and work my strategy.” Bill Cooper was a little different for Gracie to fight. “He moves in a very unorthodox way,” Gracie says, “I told him he’s like a snake. He moves very sneaky. He doesn’t use a lot of strength, but he’s very explosive. I was able to catch him during those times so he didn’t catch me!”
Gracie had not competed against Cooper before and says he likes to fight new guys. “I like surprises,” he says, “I like rolling with someone new and not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s good suspense.” Gracie says he always has a strategy in mind, but can do well from any position.
You can catch Gracie at the upcoming Worlds. “I’m always prepared and always keep training,” he says, “I keep the pace going.”
Gracie says he had a great experience at the Samurai Pro. “I wasn’t going to do the tournament,” he says, “But my guys convinced me to. I actually got a little nervous beforehand. It was a good pre-Worlds experience for me… many of the same guys, the same venue. It’s kept me fresh.”
Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles is not retiring just yet! The super star showed up at the Samurai Pro to the fans’ delight and put on a great show. Cobrinha had three matches at the Samurai Pro. He submitted his first two opponents from a choke from the back and in his third and final match, against Philipe Della Monica, he won by points.
“I’ve never competed against these guys before,” Cobrinha says, “All of them were really tough. I’m very lucky to be here.” Cobrinha says he decided to compete, even after only moving to Los Angeles three months ago from Atlanta to open his own school. “It’s all about the competition,” he says.
Cobrinha says he was supposed to retire, but no one seems to be letting him do that. “I went to Abu Dhabi to work with one of the sheiks,” he says, “And then they challenged me to fight in the Abu Dhabis one day before the event! I could have said, ‘no,’ but competition is what I do. So, I fought at 75 kilos and came in third place. I got second in the absolute. I fought big monsters! I wasn’t prepared, but I did well.”
Gilberto Faria contacted Cobrinha for the Samurai Pro and told him it was “in his house”, so Cobrinha says, “I couldn’t say no. I want to support them. And they’re paying money, so we should support them. I had a great time today.”
As for competing at the Worlds, Cobrinha is still undecided at this point. “Everything’s possible,” he says, “There are no guarantees this year because I’m just very focused on my school. Next year, for sure, I will fight. This is my life.”
Cobrinha opened his L.A. school two months ago and already has 53 students. “It’s very successful,” he says, “And I’m very happy. I love L.A. It’s very different – very busy.” Cobrinha says he is teaching all the classes at his school by himself, so he doesn’t have much time to train and prepare for tournaments. “It takes a lot of energy,” he says, “I want to do well when I compete, but in order to do that, you have to have time for you and right now I don’t.”
Cobrinha’s future goals are wrapped up in his school. “I want to make some champions,” he says, “They are not just made on the mat, but outside the mat as well. I want to create men who respect others and help people.” And don’t forget the baking. Cobrinha is still baking as well. After the 2011 Pan, he held his grand opening of his new school and he baked three beautiful cakes, which were enjoyed by all.
“I love what I do,” he says, “I want to thank my fans for not letting me retire yet. I’m going to keep going.”