San Francisco Open absolute champ Vitor Henrique’s Jiu-Jitsu tips

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Uncle Paleco’s nephew made it. GFTeam middleweight black belt Vitor Henrique Oliveira assumed his throne as the very first absolute king of the IBJJF San Francisco Open, in the Jiu-Jitsu hotbed that is California.

But Vitor Henrique is from a land of burly fighters himself—the same terrain once settled by the likes of Carlos and Helio Gracie. The Jiu-Jitsu stylist from Teresópolis had a chat with after his conquest last Sunday, and shared some cheer-filled lessons with us. And when it came time to thank his sponsors, he made sure to mention Uncle Paulo Américo “Paleco”, of course.

Vitor Henrique joga por cima no Jiu-Jitsu Foto por Dan Rod

After winning the NY Open (pictured), black belt Vitor Henrique shone at SF Open last Sunday. Photo by Dan Rod.

After conquering the middleweight title by overcoming Marcos Torregrossa in the final and the absolute by unseating Samir Chantre, the 25-year-old turned a critical eye on his own performance.

“I performed at 90%. I managed to get my game working for me both on top and on bottom but I still need to make some adjustments for the 2012 Pan, coming up at the end of March and in early April,” he told Check out some of the highlights from the conversation:

What did you learn on your way to winning two gold medals at the San Francisco Open?

I always learn a lot, but this Sunday I came up with some details on how to defend certain sweeps. The trickiest moment I encountered at the tournament was in the final at weight, against Marcos Torregrossa, whose guard is really complicated to pass. I started out with a sweep, then he swept me back, and soon we were back on our feet. I got the takedown, and he swept me again but I managed to get closed guard. When he tried opening my guard standing, I swept him again.

What’s your main pointer for the hours leading up to a competition?

Fighters have to always be well fed, sleep early before the event, try to stay focused and avoid eating too much before competing. It’s good to be confident in your game; that will help when you run into rough spots over the course of the tournament.


What was your training like for the conquest?

I’m training Jiu-Jitsu three times a day. In the morning I do a laid back session; in the afternoon I do specific training, with positions; while at night I roll some with my friends JC Ramey, Luke Zachrich, Emilly Hammer… Physical conditioning is here in Columbus, Ohio, with my personal trainer Cory Milton.

What’s your favorite technique? What do you feel made the difference in your winning the absolute?

I really like using the morote seoi nage for takedowns. But what made the difference was my state of mind: keeping calm, controlling the gas and timing positions right and with confidence.

You don’t live in Teresópolis anymore, right?

Right. I moved to Rio in 2009. Up until then I trained under Master Adilson Bitta, who trained me up until black belt. In early 2009, I joined the GFTeam family, led by Master Julio Cesar. Thank God everything is going fine; I managed to get good sponsors and compete at major events in the USA.

Was your move to GFTeam a smooth one?

It was funny. There was a championship in Teresópolis and the gang from GFTeam went to compete. I ended up competing against Marcio Tubarão and was in the final against Denilson Pimenta, who are brothers to me now. As soon as the final was over I shamelessly went and asked to join GFTeam!

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