Sperry: “We define ourselves by the opponents we choose to face”

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Gurgel Sperry-8

Zé Mario, winner of the masters’ superfight at the ADCC. Photo: Erin Herle/ GRACIEMAG

Winner of an ADCC superfight on October 20, Zé Mario Sperry had an instructive chat with GRACIEMAG about his win over Fábio Gurgel in China. Check it out.

GRACIEMAG: Your win over Gurgel happened on October 20, but the match is still being talked about by our readers. Talk about what it meant to you.

ZÉ MARIO: Fábio and I always met in the 1997 Worlds, but after my quarterfinal match with Gordo I was in no condition to fight again. I got this invite with great joy. To be able to relive the old healthy rivalry in BJJ, for a 47-year-old athlete like myself, against an icon of the sport – it was a great challenge. We define ourselves by the opponents we choose to face.

Did you learn any lessons from it?

I managed to impose my rhythm and take the fight where I wanted it to go. My biggest hurdle was trying to set a strategy against Fábio, because I didn’t have any no-gi fight of his on video. Besides, he had an army of fighters to train with. I searched everything I could find on him and his training online. Every day I’d watch his videos for 30 or 40 minutes, analyzing every movement in slow motion: takedowns, ground, preparation, etc. After three months, I believe I knew more about him than his coaches and training mates.

How was the experience of visiting China and exchanging information about BJJ with other stars of the sport?

I always wanted to visit China, especially the Wall. Fortunately the Wall was in Beijing and it was very interesting to get to know that wonderful work. Bráulio had spent a season training MMA at Blackzilians and I got to train with him there. Cyborg paid a few visits, but I went to his gym as soon as I got the invitation to fight Gurgel. However, in the U.S., I trained plenty with both and it was a fantastic experience. The best medicine for restoring humility is rolling with these guys.

You were the first-ever ADCC absolute champion as you defeated Oleg Taktarov. What do you recall from that conquest?

I remember he was a big name and it would be a great challenge. As always I went after the guy, imposed my rhythm and won by points. What changed after that title is that I got older [laughs].

You have a great deal of prestige in BJJ and you’ve had many glories in the sport. What’s your tip for our reader who trains and dreams of having a victorious career?

Simple. Pick a team you trust; try to understand your  qualities and weaknesses. Practice your qualities until you reach near-perfection. Weaknesses are there to be overcome. Use them in your favor, surprising your foes. Other than that, everything you master and apply in training, pass it on to your training partners, for that’s the only way you can do those moves with excellence.

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