Esdras Junior talks evolution of BJJ in U.S. and sets goal: ‘Gold at the Worlds’

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Esdras and his IBJJF medals. Personal archive

Esdras Junior, 29, dreams of being black-belt world champion. With that in mind, the Paraíba-born fighter decided to spend a season in the U.S. training under Osvaldo Queixinho and Samir Chantre, following an invitation from a close friend. Esdras, who has been practicing BJJ for 13 years, has already noticed an evolution in his game with the double gold won at the San Jose Open — one of the last IBJJF tournaments held before the coronavirus took over the world.

“My jiu-jitsu is in constant evolution, because the training here is excellent — there are some really strong people,” he said in a recent interview. “I won the San Jose Open convincingly, in gi and no-gi — one of my first tourneys in 2020. The experience with Prof. Queixinho is one of the best. He is a person with an immense heart. Very humble and family-oriented. He always has a lot to teach, from positions to fight strategies. But the biggest BJJ lesson I’ve learned from him is that you can’t give up on a fight until it’s over. One example of this is the fight he had with Marcio André at the Pan, where he was losing by points and turned it around with a choke.”

Living in Phoenix, Arizona since February, Esdras has been paying close attention to the evolution of the sport in the U.S.

“The main difference between Brazil and the U.S., to me, lies in some points like, for example, the structure the teams have and the support they can give their athletes,” he said. “Not to mention the benefit of being able to travel more often to fight, because air travel is much cheaper than in our country. But in terms of technical level, no doubt, Brazil is still the big exponent of jiu-jitsu. It’s important to mention, without a shadow of a doubt, that other countries are starting to make noise in competitions, and the U.S. is moving toward the top of the sport.”

Like many others, Esdras was forced to lower the intensity of his training recently. But he remains active at home, sometimes training alone, and sometimes training with the friends with whom he lives.

“Really, this pandemic wasn’t in the plans of any of us,” he said. “This ended up postponing a bit the objectives for 2020, unfortunately. I was already enjoying a great competitive rhythm since 2019, and that was reflected at the start of this season. Here, in Arizona and other states, the gyms were open, but there was an order recently telling them to close.”

Esdras added: “I hope things go back to normal soon. There are some competitions returning — which is the case of Fight to Win, where I fought a few weeks ago. I’m going to keep up my good nutrition and my training at home. I’ll continue with my dream of becoming a world champion in the black belt and making a living in jiu-jitsu.”

Esdras has been a black-belt for four years. He has several gold medals in the IBJJF circuit, and also works as an international referee.

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