Two-time world black belt champion Michael Langhi went nearly three years without losing in the gi, until 2010. At the last Worlds, in June, the Alliance master found his top form again but was unable to tame Leandro Lo (Cicero Costha) in the final and ended up with the silver.
But his performance was still good enough to warrant an invite to the ADCC in Beijing, but in the division above his usual one, as his friend Lucas Lepri nabbed the 77kg spot. Langhi talked to us about what he expects from the prestigious no-gi competition which is set to be held on October 18-19.
GRACIEMAG: So you’ll be fighting the big guys at the ADCC.
MICHAEL LANGHI: I’m happy my work is getting recognition, after all the ADCC is an event like no other. I’ll be doing my best to be a challenge to whoever’s in my way, keeping my characteristic guard play, but also very comfortable on top. I’ll definitely be under less pressure as I’ll be in an unusual weight class. I can easily reach 82kg these days, so I’ll put a lot of stress on strength during my preparation. When Fabio Gurgel called me about the invitation, I was happy and thought, “Wow, I’m gonna get killed at the 88kg category [laughs].” But I’d never say no to such an opportunity. I understand it’s hard to go from the 77kg category to the 88kg one, but as a competitor I can’t get in there with any mindset other than a winning one. I may have a one percent shot, but while the chance exists I’ll be chasing it until the end. I’ll be that tiny annoying guy amid the big guys, and I expect some good fights.
What changes in your game when you compete in a no-gi competition?
To this day I have only fought two no-gi tournaments, and I won both: a Brazilian Championship and a European. I’m undefeated at no-gi [laughs]! I don’t have much experience at it because I don’t like it that much, even though I practice it every week. Also I haven’t had many chances to fight no-gi. The no-gi events are in the second semester and I’m always out doing seminars. The game gets faster, so I’ll use speed to my advantage as I’ll be the lightest guy at that weight class. Another thing is that, since we don’t have any gis to grab on to, we try to adapt the grips some other way. This was a problem for me at first, because I depended a lot on the sleeves for the spider-guard, but now I’ve changed my no-gi game and I’m well adapted. My style is an aggressive one, the way Cobrinha and Fabio Gurgel taught me.
What did you learn from the final versus Leandro Lo at the World Championship, where he beat you by one sweep?
The most important lesson is that I have to open my mind wider. I have to keep my opponents guessing, be less predictable. My game is really not a great match for Lo’s. He has incredibly long reach for our division, and I learned I have to change something up. I’m doing this work now, and trying to evolve and create different types of games to be able to surprise people. So the outcome was positive, even if the goal wasn’t reached, as I remained victorious at the European, the Pan and the Brazilian Nationals, and now I have this chance at the ADCC come October.