BJJ Stars will feature a number of big fights on Feb. 23 in São Paulo. In one of these, Soul Fighters’s João Gabriel Rocha will be tasked with the mission of beating Marcus Buchecha.
To João, facing Buchecha has already turned into a classic — in 2018 they fought twice, and there were two fights before that, with Buchecha always coming out on top. Which is why, this time around, João is planning on a different approach. Read on to see what he told Graciemag.
GRACIEMAG.com: What are your thoughts on BJJ Stars in general?
JOÃO GABRIEL: The event is wonderful in terms of card and infrastructure. It doesn’t owe anything to any international event — very well organized, and it is very good to have this type of event in Brazil. Nowadays everybody is abroad; the adult black-belts who compete at a high level are no longer in Brazil, so the public in Brazil misses seeing a big event like this one. The main names fight in tournaments like the Worlds, Pan, Euros, as well as the tournaments with superfights, and they are all outside Brazil. BJJ Stars is coming to shake up the Brazilian market, which is getting better. I think, in fact, that people have to show their support by buying tickets or pay-per-view, because it’s a way to support the sport. If the event manages to turn a profit, we’ll have more events of this type.
How did you get invited to BJJ Stars, and what was your reaction upon finding out you would again face Buchecha?
I was in Brazil, and Fepa Lopes contacted me to learn whether I would be available to fight on that date. I was immediately excited for the simple fact of being able to fight in Brazil; I didn’t even know my opponent yet. I miss fighting in Brazil, so I practically said yes just for that alone. Soon after, the talked to me and said it would be Buchecha. I accepted right away, because it’s a fight that interests me greatly, and I jumped on the chance to do two camps consecutively.
You two have been rivals for years and have always fought tough matches. What new thing are you bringing to the table this time?
To be frank, I haven’t changed almost anything to fight Buchecha, but I have a reason for this. Each time we fight each other, the fight gets more even, being decided in the details. The last two, for example, went to the judges. We have fought a few times and he had his arm raised in every one of them, but I’m very focused right now, feeling like I’m getting closer each time, and I know I’m almost there — I will overcome this detail and throw down, do what I know and play the game. He who is able to put his cards on the table first will come out the winner.
What is different about living and training in the U.S., and how has is made you better than before?
People here don’t fall for distractions. We get distracted very easily in our culture. Example: going to the gym on foot. You stop to talk to a friend on the street, shoot the breeze and end up arriving late. You don’t do your warm-up right, or you train less than you should. Here in the U.S., there’s none of that. Everybody is on time and with a desire to do everything just right, to respect the school’s norms. The focus is greater here — you go from training home and then straight back the next day. Everything is improved. The BJJ lifestyle is at a hundred percent, no distractions. It’s not a bad thing to be with the people we like, but here I focus completely on living the sport.
What sort of danger do you see Buchecha conjuring up?
The danger is fighting Buchecha in general. Everybody stresses his standup game, but when he’s pulling, it’s also hard to pass. He’s good in all areas, and it’s very hard to fight an opponent of that stature. He has 11 world titles — four of them by getting past me — so there’s nowhere to run.
What do you predict?
In the past I have both put a strategy in place and not put a strategy in place to face Buchecha, and so far it didn’t work out any of the times. Lately I understood that what I have to do is focus on my game, my preparation. It’s complicated to draw a strategy, visualize a scenario and, during the fight, have to change everything. So, due to the unpredictability, I prefer to do my thing and be prepared for everything during the match.
Hebraica Club, São Paulo (SP)
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019
Erberth Santos vs. Felipe Preguiça
Leandro Lo vs. Nicholas Meregali
Marcus Buchecha vs. João Gabriel Rocha
Wellington Megaton vs. Marco Barbosinha
Isaque Bahiense vs. DJ Jackson
Roberto Godoi vs. Renato Babalu
Patrick Gaudio vs. Tim Spriggs
Fernando Tererê vs. Delson Pé de Chumbo
Celsinho Venicius vs. Gabriel Rollo
Michelle Nicolini vs. Bia Basílio
Carlos Eduardo Silva vs. Ricardo Pingo
Medium heavy GP
Adriano Silva (B9) vs. Diego Gavião (Guigo JJ)
Jurandir Vieira (G13) vs. Rodrigo Serafim (Alliance)
Luis Marques (LR Xtreme) vs. Diogo Almeida (Almeida JJ)
Chico Salgado (BTT) vs. Paulo Procopio (X-Coach)