Léo Nogueira explains how he won the Jiu-Jitsu Pan, Gabriel Vella and the fatigue

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Léo Nogueira works to pass the guard of Gabriel Vella, in Pan 2013. Photo: Ivan Trindade / GRACIEMAG

In late March, the super heavyweight Leonardo Nogueira had to use his experience to win the IBJJF Pan, in Irvine, California. The Alliance athlete overcame an illness after competing in the WPJJC Gramado trial, in southern Brazil. He trained a bit, fought tired but won. Nevertheless, he succeeded in the absolute, with performances below his potential.

Fabio Gurgel’s student evaluated the final with Gabriel Vella, assessed the good and bad results and revealed what he learned. He also said which, in his opinion, was the best fight in the 2013 Pan:

GracieMag: How do you analyze your journey in the Pan 2013, with highs and lows?

LEONARDO NOGUEIRA: I didn’t have a good run. I fought enough to be the champion, but I did not train as much as I should, because I was recovering from that stomach problem I had in Gramado. I did enough to secure the weight title. I think I used all my experience to win; I fought with strategy and tried not to miss. In the absolute, my lack of training made the difference. I fought with that guilty conscience, reminding me that I hadn’t committed enough in training. It’s something we all know: there are no miracles in Jiu-Jitsu. You must be well trained to gain an absolute title of that level. I think I failed in the physical aspect and got tired.

And how do you intend to train for the Worlds?

I have to train four times more to get ready for the Worlds in California, in late May. I still dream of doing another absolute final!

How was the final in your division with Gabriel Vella, an experienced fighter who was coming back?

Complicated. I was in my guard, and he is one of the best guard passers in Jiu-Jitsu. I knew that if I made a mistake or stayed on bottom for too long I would lose. So I tried to sweep as fast as I could. On top, I tried not to give any space to Gabriel work on his half guard. I won by doing that.

What was the most complicated aspect of the final?

When I tried my first sweep and got frustrated. I thought it will be tricky to sweep. But I was patient and after several attempts, I succeeded. And then, when I passed his guard, I breathed, knowing that it would be difficult for him to reverse the fight from there.

You had Clack Gracie attacking your back in the absolute. At what moment did the fatigue hit hard?

I think the worst moment was not that, but in my weight division. I tried to pass guard but couldn’t. I was tired and I knew I couldn’t stop or I will be punished. I didn’t stop, I went for it and everything worked.

What was the best fight of Pan 2013?

Man, there was a fight that called my attention. It was the absolute semifinal, between (the champion) Marcus Buchecha and my friend Bernardo Faria. It was the best fight of the competition.

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