Interview: A conversation with Fellipe Andrew, the new absolute European BJJ champion

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Fellipe with Robert Drysdale. Carlos Eduardo Ozório

After achieving submissions in four out of his seven fights in the tournament, the last one for the absolute gold of the 2020 European Jiu-Jitsu, Fellipe Andrew (Zenith) returned home not only with the tournament medals from Portugal, but also with the first place in the IBJJF black belt rankings.

The list on the IBJJF website has Andrew in first place, since he was just over 30 points behind the first place, Marcus Buchecha, and with absolute gold he passes this score with ease. But this was close to not coming true.

Although he was guaranteed in two finals on Sunday, Andrew had a stumbling block in the fight for the super heavyweight title, when he was quickly submitted by Patrick Gaudio. Initially shaken by the defeat, Fellipe relied on his friends and training companions to turn things around and beat Keenan Cornelius in the absolute, and to finish the American, who had never been beaten at black belt.

“Having lost in the weight class before gave me extra stamina,” said Fellipe. “Perhaps if I had won in my weight division, I would not have accelerated in the final.”

Check out our chat with the absolute king of the 2020 Euros!

GRACIEMAG: What was it like to fight on Saturday and win two spots in finals? How was your mind doing?

FELLIPE ANDREW: I always get nervous to fight the championships, with anyone. I was helping my girlfriend and my friends who fought in the previous days, even to just try to occupy my head and only start thinking about the fights on Saturday. If I keep thinking too much I can hardly sleep. I was excited to qualify for the finals, of course nervous and anxious to fight, but I was feeling good.

Did the defeat in the final, a quick one vs. Patrick Gaudio, really upset you?

I knew Patrick was very dangerous in his foot and knee attacks, and I was already expecting him to attack with something like that. Because my game is very similar and I attack the feet a lot too, I thought I was prepared for everything he was going to do. It was like a slap in the face! [Laughs.] I didn’t even see where that came from, at the time, or understand the leg lock transition. Only later, when watching the video.

It always suck to lose, right? I had done a very tough fight with him in the absolute on Saturday. I was feeling pretty confident to fight him again on Sunday, despite winning on Saturday by disqualification. I started well, took him off balance, but he took advantage of the chaos, and what happened happened. I was very discouraged at the time, because if I had lost in 1min to a guy I had already fought. Imagine how it would be against someone I never fought with and with Jiu-Jitsu like Keenan’s?

And how did you manage to get back to the absolute final at full force?

When I left the fight, my friends, even some who were not on my team but who were rooting for me, came close saying things like: “Man, shit happens. Lift your head ’cause the day is not over yet. You are in the European absolute final. You will concentrate, forget what happened; you are doing the most important fight of the event.” It took a while before I realized I was going to do an absolute final, and with a guy I’m a big fan of like Keenan.

I was more thirsty to win than usual, because I lost in the weight category before. I think it gave me extra stamina. Perhaps, if I won my weight division, I would not have accelerated in the final and would have struggled even with a little fear.

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@fellipeandrew is the Open-Class 2020 European Champion!

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And the lack of fear culminated in a fast triangle. Were you confident you were going to get it at that moment?

I have a lot of confidence in my triangle after I close the lock, but it wasn’t properly in place, I think. I managed to finish but it was in the armbar from the triangle, maybe if I persisted, I would have choked him in the triangle, but I preferred to attack the arm for fear that he would come out. We can expect anything from Keenan.

And what was the feeling after winning the absolute?

Overcoming adversity. After the fight with Patrick I spoke with Rodrigo Cavaca on his cell phone, and he told me that this is how I would show whether I was a champion to the world — when I went there, after I lost, and managed to get up and make a comeback, winning the absolute.

After the victory, in addition to absolute gold, you became the No. 1 in the IBJJF black belt rankings. Was that a goal of yours?

It hasn’t been updated yet, but it was a goal. After medaling in the absolute of the Worlds 2019 I placed myself well on the list, so I put the rankings as one of the foci for 2020. Passing Buchecha in the ranking is… different. Hulk is also glued to us on points, so I will fight in everything I can. European, Pan and Brazilian are always in my plans, but I will fight Opens too — every one I can.

What advice do you leave for a competitor to get back on track, just like you did?

Man, I left Caruaru, in the interior of Pernambuco, when I was a purple-belt, a little late maybe, and if a guy who came from a small town, far from everything, managed to make an absolute final in a big tournament, anyone can. Any athlete, from anywhere in the world, you just really have to want it and give yourself over to it. At some point, it will happen. Seek constancy!

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