A six-time world BJJ champion and two-time ADCC champion, Saulo Ribeiro is considered one of the greatest competitors in BJJ history. He fought the strongest adversaries of his generation and remained for many years at the top among adults. Now fighting amid masters, the black-belt under Royler Gracie continues to exert dominance. Since 2012, when the IBJJF began hosting the World Master Championship in the U.S., the founder of the University of Jiu-Jitsu has won four times in his weight class and three times in the open.
At the 2016 World Master, scheduled for Aug. 25 through 27 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saulo will hunt down another gold medal for his ample collection, this time among heavyweights in the master-3 age group. In an exclusive interview with Graciemag, Saulo spoke of his training for the tournament and his longevity.
You have been fighting masters’ events for a while now. What is your expectation for another run at the World Master?
I continue to do what a fighter does, which is to fight, regardless of whether it’s as a master, an adult, in the gi or out of it. I’m always on the lookout for challenges and for that which inspires me so that I can also inspire my students. Be it teaching or competing, I’m always on this hunt.
How is the training for this type of competition? Is it very different from when you used to fight as an adult? What changes? What do you prioritize?
Nothing changes — you just mature in your way of staying ready for battle, which in truth is the same. We just change the priority of things, since we have our business and other things that take up our time. But our dedication as a competitor is always aiming at the good result, be it financial or competitive. We prepare as if it were for any activity in our life. I always say that I fight from the moment I wake up to make the best of all my daily chores, be it as the head of a family, a brother, a teacher or an entrepreneur. So fighting is a daily thing — it’s just the arena that changes.
You were the first athlete to win over five black belt titles. What was the secret to achieve that feat? What do you impart to your students from that experience?
At the adult level, you are seeking a little more renown in the professional field in order to acquire a greater value on the market. Now that we fight more as recreation, it’s done in a more leisurely, less tense way, because we already know who we are, what we represent and where we want to get to. We do it purely for pleasure.
The World Master is a tournament that stands out for the atmosphere of a get-together. What is your focus going into it?
The secret is to always be looking for challenges, trying to test yourself, without worrying and being a slave to the result. When we are slaves to the result, we limit ourselves to what others have achieved, and we’ll never know what our own limit really is. The limit created represents the reality of the other. Yours is when you give it your best. Thus, you will see where you got and what your conquests really were. But, in the process, you have to take the chance and give it your best — besides being in love with what you like, dedicating yourself every day and surrounding yourself with good people, who contribute to your growth. The secret to success is being happy, and those competition moments are happy moments where we get together and remember good moments of Jiu-Jitsu. But, despite the friendly assemblage, I look at it with the same responsibility and the same focus on victory, wanting to rip everyone’s head off and wanting to prove that I’m still at a competitive level above the expectation for my age.
I believe in training, in a regimen, in competitiveness and in technique. I believe that our technique is sharp because it is sharpened every day. We are Jiu-Jitsu scholars who apply and teach what they test in the battlefield. Therefore, we can speak with authority about what we’re testing there. Because of that, I believe we are first-rate generals, because we teach that which worked for us.