Popovitch: invencibility lost, but head in right place

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Pablo against Victor Estima in absolute / Photo: John Lamonica

A few hours after the final of the ADCC 2011 absolute final, Pablo Popovitch was at the hotel bar in Nottingham, wearing a jacket and lost look on his face. One of the biggest names at the September event, he ended up taking bronze in the under-88 kg division and silver in the absolute. Up until that point, the Brazilian teaching Jiu-Jitsu in Florida hadn’t lost a match since 2007.

An obstinate athlete who is always looking to make No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu history, Pablo was visibly shaken by his pair of losses to André Galvão – who not only spent a few months training with him in Florida but had lost to Popovitch at ADCC 2007, in New Jersey.

Supermatch champion Bráulio Estima approached and asked his training partner in the lead-up to his showdown with Ronaldo Jacaré to smile. “Whoa there! There’s no reason for you to have a look like that on your face, Pablão! You only lost to one fighter this weekend, and he was in impressive form,” said Estima.

Pablo accepted the embrace, threatening to break a smile but was to upset to do so. The Brazilian Fort Lauderdale-transplant hadn’t lost to anybody since the aforementioned 2007 ADCC, when he lost to Marcelo Garcia in the under-77 kg final.

“I have to thank you guys for saving my marriage in 2009 – all Pablo would talk about was beating Marcelinho at the last ADCC; good thing what happened happened and we could return to normal,” said Mrs. Popovitch in an awkward conversation with Tatiana Tognini Garcia, Marcelo Garcia’s wife.

But the greetings and slaps on the back started to succeed at the bar, where Rodolfo Vieira was celebrating his birthday and Pablo was kicking back. And the hug finally coaxed a grin from him.

Our GMAs Pablo and André Galvão speak for first time after absolute final. Photo: Marcelo Dunlop.

Just having stepped into the bar, André overcame the awkwardness and went to greet the opponent he’d subbed just a few hours earlier. “Pablo is a great friend, and I know how beloved his is to all his students. It’s not too cool to face a friend, but I had to make it to the top, so it’s all alright,” said Galvão, who demonstrated wrestling prowess in taking Popovitch down on two occasions – a rare achievement.

To GRACIEMAG.com, Pablo explained his feelings about his pair of losses to André. “In the first one he took me down, fine, but I think I was distracted; the ref awarded some penalties and I thought I was winning. When I came to my senses, it was too late. In the second one I was just spent, mainly because I went for over a half hour in the semifinal against a monster like Xande. Now it’s all about training to win in 2013,” he said with resolve.

Don’t miss complete coverage of ADCC 2011 in the upcoming issue of GRACIEMAG. Pick it up at your local bookstore, or subscribe to get yours for less.

André used an armdrag to close distance on Pablo and then, shortly thereafter, take him down in the absolute final. Photo: Daren Bartlett.

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