Having recovered from serious knee injury, Rodrigo Cavaca is finally returning to competition. In Lisbon, Portugal, this weekend, the instructor for team CheckMat will be fighting for gold again. But he’s going to take it slow: all he wants is the title for his weight-division, to take his return slowly.
Cavaca, a bronze medalist in the absolute at the 2011 European Open, is just starting to get back in competition rhythm and isn’t likely to try his hand at open weight at the end of the month. All for a greater objective: to show up in tip-top shape for the 2013 World Championship in California and close out the ultraheavyweight division with his student Marcus Bochecha, the current world champion.
In the following GRACIEMAG.com interview, Cavaca talks about training, knee surgery and warns: “There’ll be a lot of footlocks going around.”
GRACIEMAG: How do you feel going into this European Open, the first IBJJF tourney of the season?
RODRIGO CAVACA: I’m feeling like I did in 2010, the last season when I was able to train for real. Since then I haven’t been able to train hard, and thank God today I’m 100%. My focus now is this year’s Worlds, closing out the ultraheavyweight division with Bochecha, and that’s why I’m training. The European Open is a test for me to know how I’m doing and what I need to work on. I know I’m not 100%, as I’ve only been training hard for two months now, but my mindset and desire to fight will be enough. I can’t wait.
At the last European Open, you went all the way in the absolute and took bronze…
That’s right. I lost in the semifinals to Sérgio Moraes, a match I was winning until making a fatal mistake in the last 10 seconds. It was a mistake that cost me a spot in the final. But no, this year I’m not doing the absolute. I want to be strong for the weight group and leave a spot open for our athletes, who will surely do a good job of representing CheckMat. I’ll only be hunting gold medal in the weight division, for which I’ve done a lot of physical conditioning with Coach Yan Reis.
You underwent a series of operations on your knee. What motivates you to compete again?
My students are my biggest motivation. I see how much they like it when I compete, when I train and get ready for a tournament, as I’ve been doing for the European Open. There’s also the desire to always pursue new challenges, something inherent in Jiu-Jitsu fighters’ makeup. In my case, I went through four surgeries on two knees, two of them in the last 18 months, and even so I’ve never considered not competing. Now I’m recovered, ready and more motivated than ever to take on the big names of the sport.
How do you define your current game, Cavaca?
I’d define my Jiu-Jitsu game now as being more intelligent, since I’ve learned a lot during this layoff when I dedicated myself to my students. In the role of coach I managed to work on a side of mine that I wasn’t too familiar with. I learned to see the shortcuts in a number of fight situations, to be more strategic and never think that my game is so good that I can beat anybody, because there’s no such thing as that. Now there are athletes who are more and more well-rounded and who we’d never be able to beat if we didn’t study them and put together specific game plans. So my game is the same as it’s always been, just more complete. In other words, there’ll be a lot of footlocks going around.
What’s the state of the ultraheavyweight division in your view?
The ultraheavyweight division has been really deep ever since the days of my idol Pé de Pano. And now the current biggest name in the sport is in it: my student Marcus Bochecha. This European Open will be no different. From what I’ve seen there’ll be big names like Igor Silva, José Junior and my teammates Bruno Matias and Alexander Trans. It’ll be tough but I feel prepared, and I’m going in with a single objective: to win a third European title. I miss competing in Europe, where I feel at home. I’d like to thank the team at GRACIEMAG.com, my sponsors, my students, my master Léo Vieira and God for letting it happen.