How one young Brazilian beat the odds to become an entrepreneur and black-belt in the U.S.

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Diego and his professor Formiga. 

Born in Ceilândia, in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, Diego Almeida is another Brazilian who made it in BJJ. These days, Diego runs his own school in the U.S. after having gone through a period of maturing. To achieve his goals, the 25-year-old had to overcome the distance from his family and his difficulty learning English in San Angelo, Texas.

A black-belt of just one month, under the guidance of Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa, Diego is already able, in a few words, to define what the new rank represents in the life of someone so in love with the sport.

“First, I’d like to say that I was born again when I arrived in the United States,” he told Fight Talk in a recent interview. “The last five years flew by, and many people passed through my life to teach me how to be a better person, and how to achieve my own dreams. I was far away from my family; I had to learn English on my own.”

“The black belt represents, to me, all the obstacles I beat even when it seemed nearly impossible,” he added. “There’s no secret to being a black-belt; you just need to be persistent. Bad days come for everybody, but have faith that the sun will shine again in your life.”

About to kick off a competitive career among jiu-jitsu’s elite, Diego shared his plans: “My calendar is already laid out. My training sessions are focused on fighting at the Pan and the World Championship of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation in the black belt. I intend to compete in multiple IBJJF Opens to win my points for the rankings as well. All of this training of mine will be guided by Rafael, along with my training partners.”

Making sure to give credit where it’s due, Diego went on: “Having my teacher and João Gabriel by my side has been making a difference in my way of seeing and applying BJJ. My mental side has changed a lot too. Well, my journey’s just begun.”

Heading Seeds 13, his own gym since 2017, Diego shared how he managed to attract 140 students and change the entire structure of the training to offer a higher-quality service. The school already has two branches — one in Colorado and another back in Brasília.

“It feels very good to remember what I did to get here,” he said. “I had to work as a waiter at a barbecue place to save money and open my first space. It was a mad dash going from training to work, but everything happened gradually the way I hoped. I was able to save 500 dollars for enough months, until it was possible to find a space, buy mats and get my dream started.

“Today, everybody sees my gym looking good, full of students — but few people know what I did to get here. Nothing comes easily if you don’t fight for your dream.”

Diego added, “I’d like to leave a thank-you to everybody who believed in me when I was just a dreamer. You are part of this.”

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