Igor Paiva, 30, is living one of the best phases of his career as a BJJ athlete. In 2020 the black-belt from Soul Fighters won at the Pan, Houston Open, Austin Open and American Nationals. It all resulted in new middleweight and absolute titles, plus great wins over Xande Ribeiro, Alexandre Ceconi, Marcelo Mafra, Jake Mackenzie and more elite competitors. Igor even bagged a silver medal at the Master Worlds, the last event held by the IBJJF, in Orlando, FL.
“It was a very good year,” he summarized in a recent interview. “I won every championship in which I competed at middleweight, except for the Master Worlds, where I was runner-up due to the judges’ decision in the final.
“I won titles in the absolute too — it was very memorable. There was my fight against Xande, Alexandre Ceconi and other heavyweights that made me very confident to take on any challenge. They are legends of the sport, and to me it was an incredible experience to have fought them. The year 2020 was very complicated, but I managed to reach some goals. I hope to win double that this year.”
Igor, who was also victorious in Fight to Win and Kasai Pro, added:
“I love competing; I feel alive when I’m there on the mat. I really like testing my jiu-jitsu. I’m always open to understanding the lessons that competition can teach a human being; and, hard as it may be to believe, the silver at this last Master Worlds was the one that left the biggest mark in me. It came down to tenacity! I had just lost two close friends due to covid-19 in Brazil in the week of the tournament, and besides that, I had to deal with some problems in the two weeks prior to the championship that really directed my focus elsewhere. I was sad because of the things that happened! But since I was already there, I fought. Through all the obstacles, I managed to reach the final against Victor Oliveira. We drew the match, and the judges decided in his favor. To be honest, it was the silver medal that I’m gonna keep with the most love. Every time I look at this medal, I remember how strong our mind and our heart can be.”
Igor’s plans for 2021 reflect the changing times.
“The growth of the digital world became even greater in 2020 because of the pandemic we’re living,” he said. “The internet showed us how far we can get in such a fast, effective manner. Many BJJ gyms remained open thanks to videoconference classes.”
He continued: “I’ll be preparing jiu-jitsu content to make available online this year too; I’m looking for partnerships to make this happen. Nothing will replace in-person classes, but the online classes are coming in strong as an extra help for the students’ learning process. So be aware of the value that online classes have, but don’t forget to show up for in-person training frequently. One complements the other. And remember: There is no theory without practice.”