GRACIEMAG.com: You’re in one of the most highly anticipated matches at Metamoris Pro, taking on Kron Gracie, who’s always dead set on getting the tapout. How are your preparations for the match going?
OTAVIO SOUSA: My preparations are going great. I’m training hard and am really focused. I can’t wait to hit the mat come October 14 in San Diego. I’m training differently for this match. After all, the strategy will be totally different. It’s one thing to compete at the Worlds in a number of matches. It’s another to do a supermatch where points don’t count and even if you’re winning you can’t think about slowing things down—you have to go on the attack and finish. To win an event like this one you have to be in great shape.
How does all that change in relation to your particular way of fighting?
My style is already quite attack-oriented. I always go for the submission whenever possible, so I’m not going to undergo any changes. I’m just going to add aggression and go for it till the end.
Who’s helping you in training?
There are a lot of special people with me. I’m thankful to my friends at Gracie Barra who are here helping me to evolve on a daily basis, uplifting me and giving me positive vibrations. I’d like to mention one name who I can’t leave out—Philipe Della Monica. He’s been a great partner and is helping me a lot both in Jiu-Jitsu training and conditioning. He’s always pushing me to my limit.
Will Zé Radiola be able to make it there to corner you?
I’d really like to have my teacher Zé Radiola there if possible. Having him there barking instructions is priceless. He might not be able to make it this time, but I’m sure he’ll be cheering for me like he always does. I can’t explain what it’s like when he’s around. I remember a scene from the 2012 Worlds. He was having fits, he gets so nervous, and I ended up winning the championship in the final seconds. It was exciting. For this fight at Metamoris Philipe will be cornering me.
You said something about changing your training. How do you train for a 20-minute match with no points?
Twenty minutes is a long time for a match, especially when there are two top-tier athletes in it. I’m pushing the gas in every roll, giving my all in every exercise, every sparring session. I’m looking at this match like a new challenge in my career. I’ve always competed at IBJJF championships, and Metamoris rules are completely different. I see this as a positive thing, and I feel that championships like this make the sport better, value the athletes financially and make Jiu-Jitsu more professional a sport. I have lots of respect for Kron. He’s a phenomenon, and this has all the makings of a great match.
So you like the rules. Is there anything you’d change to make it even better?
It’ll be a great party for the cheering sections. The only thing I’m not in favor of is the match ending without a winner if there’s no submission. I accepted the match because I like new challenges, and I’m sure it’ll be a great experience. I like testing myself, but I still prefer IBJJF rules. Another cool part is the exposure the athletes get; after all, there are fewer matches, so the athletes come to the forefront. I see Metamoris as an event complementing the competition Jiu-Jitsu we now have, where the incoming athletes fighting for recognition, the black belts from all the countries squaring off against each other and all.
Kron beat you one time at the Worlds, in 2007, as a brown belt. That year you were absolute world champion. What has changed since then?
These days we’re totally different fighters. I don’t just see myself as being better technically, but also more mature, experienced and confident. Kron is really tough and has really dangerous attacks. He doesn’t give his opponents room to breathe. I have my strategy and plan for neutralizing his game but I’ll keep you guessing until the 14th (laughs).
Teaching class every day and being world champion must be rough. What’s the secret to it?
It is indeed rough reconciling it all. But as they say, with sacrifice the taste of victory is all the more satisfying. The rewards make it worthwhile. Today I help transform people’s lives through Jiu-Jitsu, whether by teaching discipline to children, self-defense to women or showing everyone how to lead a healthier life.
What’s the recipe for being a Jiu-Jitsu world championship these days?
It’s all about humility—that’ll take you a long way. You just need to work hard, believe in yourself and not be afraid of making mistakes or taking risks. Now and then life blindsides you, but we have to just get back on our feet. Perseverance is everything. It’s not how hard you hit, but how much you can take without giving up, understand? The secret to success is to keep forging ahead.