The fan who rolled Jiu-Jitsu with BJ Penn

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Férias no Havaí: valeu ou não levar o kimono de Jiu-Jitsu na mala? Foto: Acervo Pessoal.

Vacation in Hawaii: was it or wasn't it worth having stashed his Jiu-Jitsu gi in his luggage? Personal archive photo.

Last April, the Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Ricardo Borba took off on vacation to Hawaii with his girlfriend. Along with his passport and toothbrush, the Rio de Janeiro native took along his gi and Jiu-Jitsu black belt in his suitcase. The basic necessities, as you’ll see in this article.

A student of Jiu-Jitsu professors Bolão and Cazuza, Ricardo embarked on an April 2 trip that would take him around to almost every island in the archipelago, including the Big Island, where BJ Penn has his academy.

“Before taking off, I joked with my friends that I was going to the city of Hilo to train with BJ, but it was clear to me that wasn’t something likely to happen. But I always take my gi with me when I travel, so it wouldn’t hurt to try,” he recalled in a conversation with

On reaching Hilo, Ricardo Borba figured out where the academy was located and got clued in on regular Jiu-Jitsu training hours there.

“When I returned at the agreed time, to my surprise JD, BJ’s brother, was the one who was going to teach the class. And better still, BJ was suiting up his gi to train with the gang!” he said with enthusiasm; and he rushed to get in his gi. What happened next is that his fantasy roll with BJ materialized, not to mention with JD and nearly every other student there. “All the students were tough as nails,” gushed the tourist.

To make the day all the better, his girlfriend was there with her camera. And BJ Penn invited the Brazilian to train again the next day, with him and Renato “Charuto” Versissimo.

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“I lucked out that my trip coincided with when BJ would be there and, mainly, be training. The next day he caught a flight to Sweden for the UFC,” he recalled.

To the visitor, the thing that most impressed him most was how friendly and humble the champion was.

“He and everyone else received me as though I were a longtime friend. BJ truly deserves everything he’s accomplished in Jiu-Jitsu and the UFC, because I realized there aren’t many fighters like him, in the sense that he really carries the Jiu-Jitsu soul with him. I could see how he truly loves the sport, and he’s still training in the gi, practicing takedowns and standup, even though he doesn’t really ‘need’ to as a competitor. And even after having won two UFC weight divisions, he treats everyone really well, which is more important than any title,” said Borba, before closing with a personal reflection:

“I think that if he’d stayed in Hilo I’d have forgotten about tourism and just stayed there training, but my girlfriend probably wouldn’t have been too pleased…”

Winner of the featherweight division at the 1999 Jiu-Jitsu World Championship, former UFC champion BJ Penn announced his retirement from the octagon in 2011, just after losing to Nick Diaz at UFC 137. This week, however, he hinted at a possible return, when responding to rumors about a fight with Josh Koshcheck.

“Wherever I go people ask me to return, and I think it’s working… But I don’t want to think about when, I just know it won’t be in the coming months,” declared Penn, asking for a “big fight,” for him and the sport’s fans.

Check out BJ teaching a Jiu-Jitsu position at the academy and put in your two cents’ worth: who would you like to see BJ Penn face in the UFC?

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