Gold in the black belt may seem like the pinnacle of the career of a BJJ fighter, but to other, hungrier competitors, it goes beyond that. For Cláudia do Val, the incessant pursuit for the top spot began after the 2018 Worlds.
After winning points at the Walter Pyramid, she kept traveling the world, fighting every open and national competition she could, and the hard work paid off. By the end she had amassed 27 gold medals and two silver ones, which put her at the top of the IBJJF rankings in gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu.
Graciemag recently talked to the De la Riva juggernaut to understand how the training and mind of the Rezende-born girl made her BJJ’s new woman to beat.
GRACIEMAG: How did you start out in BJJ? Where did the “most dangerous guard” in women’s BJJ originate?
CLÁUDIA DO VAL: I started out in judo. I did three years of judo before getting into BJJ with the intention of improving my ground game in judo. Until I quit judo. In BJJ, until the brown belt, I barely knew how to play guard. It was when I hurt my shoulder, two and a half years ago, that I began playing only from the bottom. I would even play guard, but it was like an avenue.
First in the rankings after a 2018 filled with victories, like the world championship. How does it feel, even though the season isn’t over?
Being first in the rankings is pretty cool. It’s a big achievement; people congratulate me, recognize me and so on. But nothing has changed; I’m the same old Claudinha, and I continue to get my ass handed to me at training.
In the last season, you came close to topping the rankings. Was it an old goal or just a consequence of winning a lot?
I took a long time to start competing, and I guess I got addicted. Now I’m chasing lost time and fighting in everything I didn’t fight in before I started. It’s also a way to get to know the world, which, if not for BJJ, I never would.
And for a possible match with Tayane (who, as well as a friend, is your most dangerous opponent and world No. 2)? Got an ace up your sleeve?
Tay and I haven’t fought in years. I have fought her and lost. I think maybe there will be a time we have to fight, but I’m not thinking about that yet.