GRACIEMAG.com readers know what’s up. The first time we heard praise for Cicero Costha’s lightweight student Leandro Lo Pereira do Nascimento, it was on our commentary board. “I’ve never seen anyone pass guard the way Leandro does in championships!” said a web user.
The remark was made after Leandro lost the gold-winning match in the absolute at the São Paulo state championship to ultraheavyweight Gabriel Vella. “I couldn’t score a point on the kid,” said the Ryan Gracie black belt in awe. “I got a few advantages from making it to his side, but his guard is really slick. He’s here to stay in the lightweight division,” said Vella in praise.
From the look of it, he really is here to stay. After twice beating two-time world champion Michael Langhi, in Abu Dhabi and in the final of the Brazilian Nationals on Sunday, Lo is now one of the lightweight elite.
But what’s the secret to his meteoric rise, if Leandro didn’t even make it onto the winners’ podium at the 2011 Pan? His master, Cicero Costha, breaks it down for GRACIEMAG.com.
“Can I say it? Even I didn’t think he’d make it to the top three at weight so quickly. Of course he’s a great fighter, kills himself in training, and has a really pesky guard, but I was judging by the Pan. He didn’t make it past his second match, so we thought it would take a bit longer for him to start showing through,” says Cicero, a teacher from São Paulo who runs the Lutando pelo Bem charity project, where 400 young Jiu-Jitsu practitioners train.
“It was when we had a talk that I realized that Lo, with his loose and laid back style, carried his style too dangerously on the mat. So after the Pan I asked that him to not test his Jiu-Jitsu too much, as we already knew it was good, and fight more strategically, with a more restrained game,” reveals Cicero – himself a medal collector, between the years 2004 and 2006, having been stopped at featherweight by fighters like Frédson Alves, Mário Reis, Bruno Frazatto and Rubens Cobrinha.
Leandro agreed, held himself back some, and then the surprise came: he won in Abu Dhabi, beating Celso Venicius in the final; and took the Brazilian national title, overcoming Langhi by an advantage point. So brazen is he, Leandro enjoys dabbling in the absolute – at the Nationals he stopped at two-time absolute champion Márcio Pé de Pano.
“Pé swept and put the pressure on, until he got a hold of Lo’s arm, and Lo tapped right away, so as not the be hurt for Sunday,” recalls Cicero.
On the Monday following his gold-winning display at the Brazilian Nationals, Leandro didn’t want to hear about partying, even with the 22 years he turned last week. He got right back to training, and when he got there he received a present: a visa to fight in the USA, at the 2011 Worlds. Also students at Cicero’s São Paulo academy, devilish brothers Paulo and João Miyao got their passports stamped for Long Beach.