Raphael Cadena and the power of the armored mind to achieve goals

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Raphael Cadena made his successful return to featherweight. Photo: Reproduction

Being resilient and staying on the move are paramount requirements for achieving great things on and off the mat. This is the mantra that guides black belt Raphael Cadena, our GMI in Florida. Representative of the RMNU HQ school and trained by Leandro Azara, from A2 Jiu-Jitsu, in Teresópolis, Raphael proved the value of determination to achieve the goal set. He, who weighed in at 178lb in the last years, returned to compete at featherweight and shot the gold in his return to the division, in February.

Raphael chose to make the comeback a week before the Atlanta Open, when he began his weight cut. He needed to lose 10lb to beat the division limit. “I knew it would be painful, as my nutritionist told me, but I was willing to do it. I have faced many challenges throughout my life and this would be just one more, and it only came down to my willpower”, remembered the black belt, who also became champion of the Tampa Open in the master 1 category.

Raphael Cadena spoke with the GRACIEMAG team and talked about the challenges he faced in making the weight cut, as well as what a successful return to featherweight means. 

GRACIEMAG: What were the biggest challenges you faced in making the weight cut? And what motivated you to keep going?

RAPHAEL CADENA: The biggest challenge, without a doubt, was time. I hadn’t hit this weight in three years and I was out of shape. I didn’t train as much as I used to because I was focused on solving the issues with the American consulate and bringing my family to the United States. My motivation to reach the goal was my own mindset. I remember I was at a barbecue with friends and one of them told me that I could not make it to featherweight because I was 178lb. On another occasion, Robinho Moura told me that it would be better for me to stay at lightweight, since it would be easier to reach. These words touched me and I faced these challenges. I have always competed as a featherweight and age could not be the factor to stop me. I wanted to prove that it is possible to beat the goals set, if you put your mind in it.

What did the Atlanta Open title mean to you?

I signed up at lightweight and the IBJJF sent me an email to recommend that I change category, because the bracket was empty. I was 10lb over the featherweight limit and the championship was a week away. I talked to my wife and, against her wishes, I decided to make the weight cut. I knew it would be hard, just as my nutritionist told me, but I was willing to do it. I have faced many challenges throughout my life and this would be just one more, and it only came down to my willpower. As soon as I won the Atlanta Open, I felt like crying because of everything I had been through to get there physically and mentally prepared. This championship was a game changer in my life. I realized that I can still perform at a high level in my initial category.

What are the factors that boosted your great performance in recent championships?

First of all, my family gives me all the support I need after two years away due to the pandemic and issues with my American visa. My wife always supports me and knows that I get sad when I don’t stay active in the championships. Another reason was to surround myself with good people who take me out of my comfort zone and push me to the next level in Jiu-Jitsu. Another trigger was the advice I heard from Robinho Moura. During the class, he told us that you have to be professional every day to conquer something important, not only on the mat, but in life itself. I understood the concept of that lesson and I have applied it in my routine, accumulating small conquests along the day. I believe this is just the beginning, I will gain productive achievements in the long run.

What were the most important lessons learned during this period in the United States?

I believe it is to keep in constant movement and to be resilient. When I say being in motion, I mean learning English, building relationships, understanding the local culture, and listening to others; it is no wonder we have two ears and one mouth. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t listened to my elders, willing to learn, and selected the people I want to live with. I was born in the Rosário neighborhood, in Teresópolis. I used to live in a slum, but I always had the vision that this would not be my reality. Therefore, I understood the need to be in movement. I became a father when I was 20 and had two choices ahead of me: stop  and accept that life or use fatherhood as fuel to take off. And I chose the second option. I was also lucky to have met good people throughout my life.

What are your next goals?

I intend to stay at featherweight and hope to change people’s lives through Jiu-Jitsu. I don’t want to set an example, but I would like to have the opportunity to help with advice, just as I have been helped in the past. This is how I want to build my legacy. Of course, I want to compete hard and medals are important, however, I value the journey more. Jiu-Jitsu is a tool that needs to be explored and I hope to spread the art to help others. People may forget the champions of two years ago, but they will remember the values they stood for and the legacy they built.



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