Brown belt João Gabriel forges ahead on his way to the top

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Joao Gabriel Rocha of Soul Fighters is a brown belt heavyweight with an astounding record. At just 19 years of age, this Jiu-Jitsu fighter started training at two years old and has amassed a large number of gold medals in his time on the mats. “I’ve won the Brazilian Nationals 17 times,” he says, “I’ve never lost at the Brazilian Nationals since I started competing at four.”

Joao Gabriel Rocha takes gold / Photos: Deb Blyth

João Gabriel has been a brown belt for one year. His goal as a brown belt was to become a world champion. As a purple belt, he came in second at the Worlds in 2010. He wanted 2011 to be his year to capture gold, and fate was on his side. Rocha had five matches for the day. He won four with a submission and one on points to take the title.

Joao Gabriel Rocha in an absolute match against Dimitrius Souza

Rocha was less than happy after the absolute, where he ultimately came in third place, but nonetheless, nothing could take away from his joy of becoming a world champion. “I’ve been training so hard for this day,” he said, “I train all day every day and I compete all the time.”

He said his goal is to become a world champion open class black belt one day. “It’s my dream,” he said, “I want to be a black belt world champion. I will do whatever I have to do to make that happen.”

Rocha’s idol and mentor is his master, Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa who was at the Worlds coaching Rocha on to victory. “I’m so thankful he was here today with me,” Rocha said, “Jiu-Jitsu is my life. It’s my job. I always need to do my best.” At the 2011 Worlds, João Gabriel proved that he is the best heavyweight brown belt in the world.

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