From ice pop vendor to BJJ black-belt: new GFTeam star joins sport’s elite

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Leonardo Silva is a brand-new black-belt.

The life of young Leonardo Silva changed last week in Ohio. From his tough start in Itaboraí, where he had to sell ice pops to keep training, today the new GFTeam champion is a black-belt.

Emotional, Leonardo explained the feeling of attaining one of his life’s big goals. “To me, being a black-belt is a personal achievement and it means opportunity, because I know I can change my life completely.

“I remember the dark days I had when I went without training because I couldn’t afford the fare. I remember the time I’d be at the beaches in Rio selling ice pops to be able to afford registration into tournaments. I look back and see it was all worth it. I know I will show all my skill to the people who haven’t seen me yet, who don’t know me — now I can change that. Getting here was an arduous path, and now I have the chance to realize all I’ve ever dreamed.”

Leonardo, a BJJ student for the past nine years, has multiple gold medals from IBJJF tournaments. About his competitive future, he added: “I intend to stay in the lightweight division. It is, without a doubt, one of the most intensely contested categories, and I know I’m on a level to be competing with the champions.

“I won’t be surprised by my achievements, and I have always believed I would make it. But the outcome belongs to God, and what’s left for me to do is to work hard.”

Leonardo, who counts the triangle and choke as his strong suits, will be a part of the Fight to Win event held on Aug. 30, but his opponent has yet to be announced.

Watch his graduation here:

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