Rodolfo: triumphant return and the path to beating Roger

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Rodolfo against Léo Nogueira in the Rio Open final. Photo: Gustavo Aragão

Rodolfo Vieira had great expectations for 2010. After winning the absolute division at the 2008 World Championship as a brown belt and defeating a number of black belts on his way to winning the World Pro 2009 title, the fighter was promoted at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport. Also in 2009, he won the Rio Open already as a black belt.

This year, though, a knee injury kept Rodolfo out of the main competitions. But, after a period of inactivity, the student of Master Júlio Cesar reclaimed his place as a top-tier competitor. Could he turn out to be another obstacle for Roger Gracie?

You flew to Abu Dhabi but were unable to compete at the World Pro. What was it like to be out of action this whole time?

I got injured, had a serious knee problem. It’s awful… It gets you really down and you feel you’ll never fight well again. I’d see the guys in my division fighting and doing great, while I was there on the sidelines. I’d wonder if I’d ever fight like I used to again. The good folks on our side, the family and friends, lift us up and with that support I managed to return in grand style.

Júlio Cesar promotes Rodolfo on his return from the World Pro 2009

But did you imagine you’d make such a great return?

I surprised myself. I submitted everyone when I fought in São Paulo and then I made it to the Rio Open, where the level is way up there, and I won at weight and the absolute. I was really pleased.

Some readers are already speculating about the possibility of you beating or not beating Roger Gracie. What do you think of that?

Look, that’s complicated business (laughs). Who doesn’t want to fight the guy and beat him? Roger is the best in the world, I can say no more than that. All you have to do is look at what he’s done and is doing. But it’s that old story, right? We saw Werdum beat Fedor and so I believe it’s possible to beat him. It’s just not easy. You have to train and believe in yourself because no one’s invincible. But I think I still have a ways to go, I’m aware of that. I’m a fan of his Jiu-Jitsu, he’s the man and I have to train a lot.

But what would be the path to beating him?

The path is on top. On bottom, I don’t think anyone’s managed to do it yet.

Against Fernando Boi, in the Rio Open absolute semis. Photo: Gustavo Aragão

When will you compete next?

I’m going to take a rest, but next week I’ll be back in training to try and get the prize money at the National Cup. There’s the Brazilian Team Nationals and GFTeam will take a good team at lightweight and heavyweight black belt. I also want to do the Brazilian No-Gi Nationals and to be in everything that comes up. I’m content to just be back competing.

Do you contemplate doing MMA?

I do. That’s where the money is. But I’m 20 years old and still have much to accomplish in Jiu-Jitsu. I got my black belt a little over a year ago, so I have to brush up my ground game a lot to not have a poor showing. Who knows? Maybe four or five years from now.

I’d like to let the gang know that anyone interested in having me for a seminar can reach me at

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