After the triumph of Felipe Pena, 25, in the marathon that was the 2017 ADCC Worlds’ absolute division in late September in Finland, one picture went viral. Posted by his first teacher, Vinicius Draculino, the image showed Preguiça wearing an oversized gi, his face betraying a sleepy white-belt that wasn’t too happy to be at Gracie Barra-BH. An evident, moving contrast with present-day Felipe — a machine of competing in classical and no-gi BJJ, with a focused stare and good-looking, swift, terrifying technique.
“I think in the beginning I really wasn’t cut out for it,” said Felipe Preguiça in a conversation with Graciemag. “I didn’t much like training when I started out, and I’d mostly just lean against the wall, talking to friends.”
“That’s why I got the nickname of Preguiça,” he said of the Portuguese word meaning both laziness and sloth. “But, after a while, by persisting, I took a liking to it and slowly increased my training time, until I began competing — I became excited by it… Until today happened.”
If you know any clumsy beginner, show them this interview, but beware: you may be training with a future monster of the sport.
GRACIEMAG: What was your biggest obstacle in reaching the top of the open division at this ADCC Worlds?
FELIPE PREGUIÇA: I think what’s tough about the ADCC isn’t the number of fights, but their duration. We know that some fights can last 20 minutes, and the finals, 40 — like I did with Rodolfo Vieira at the 2015 ADCC in São Paulo. It really is tiresome. The good thing is that in 2015, even though I took silver and didn’t fight in the absolute (we decided that Rominho Barral would fight in the absolute that time), I learned a bunch, got a taste of it. I took note of the different rules I should concern myself with (heel hooks, etc.), and I reaped the lessons this year. I’d go to bed and wake up thinking about the title.
You are an inspiration for practitioners who like attacking on the back — and, perhaps more, for those who don’t. What’s the trick?
That’s right — I did eight fights total in Finland, and in six I got finishes from the back. In all four matches in the absolute I scored or finished from there. I think since the blue belt I’ve had this drive to take the back, a skill I developed ages ago training in the gi and that nowadays comes up easily in my fights. Today I feel I can see the path to my opponents’ backs much more clearly. And from many different positions — top, bottom… It’s just practice, I suppose.
How do you analyze your final opponent? You scored 6-0 (back) against American meteor Gordon Ryan, who emerged from Tom DeBlass’s gym.
He is a guy who really displays an intricate no-gi game; he practices knee locks and heel hooks a lot, which surprises BJJ competitors. He started getting attention by challenging others online, and he really does have a strong game. But in this event he proved he had a very well-rounded game, because nobody becomes champion by just knowing one aspect or another of ground fighting. It was our second match: in the first one, he challenged me in no-gi, under his rules, with no time control, and I accepted — I trained a lot and managed to finish him. Now I’m waiting for him to accept my challenge: a fight with me, in the gi. Who knows? Maybe it’ll happen.
What was your most complicated fight out of the eight?
I think Rafael Lovato Jr. was my toughest opponent. He had a good strategy; he managed to apply some good, let’s say, countergame, and shut down my attempts from the bottom. His tactics undermined my stamina a little. Against Yuri Simões, in the under-99kg final, I was feeling good, but kudos to him. I thought the judges granted the points erroneously — too quickly, — but I don’t blame Yuri, who became a two-time champion at the event. It was a pleasure fighting him. It’s an even 1-1 between us — I hope we can put on many spectacles for the fans in the future.