Eight gold medals in the four biggest events of the 2016/2017 season. That was how Tayane Porfírio spent her first year as a black-belt.
In the super-heavyweight division of the Worlds, her guard was key to beating Vanla Luukkonen in an elastic transition that ended in a leg lock. In the absolute division, she defeated Nathiely de Jesus with an americana.
Graciemag got to talk to Tayane this week. You can read the interview below.
GRACIEMAG: What went through your mind when you became world champion?
Tayane Porfírio: I think every athlete has something of a story to tell. My childhood was a little turbulent. Not just my childhood — to this day I have some family issues. Last year, at the time of the Worlds, my sister had disappeared a week before the tournament, and this year I promised to myself that I was going to try to do everything differently. I had problems throughout the year with my dad, who was in hospital before the trip to the Euros as well. I think the pride my mom feels of me is due to me not having given up easily at any point — I always had a strong mind; I really wanted to be a world champion. Dreams really are possible. I am not ashamed of my story, or of where I come from. I come from the country, in Ceará, and I’m very proud to come from where I come from.
About this year’s Worlds: Now, at 22, you are an absolute champion. How does that feel?
The only thing I feel now is relief. I go from January to June with my heart in my throat; I feel like I can flip out at any moment, you know? Because it’s a dream to be a world champion, right? And conquering this dream with double gold is even more — I think it feels like fulfilment.
What was your hardest fight?
A fight’s a fight, but at the Worlds I think the hardest one of all was with Bia Mesquita. All the other ones were pretty tough, but against Bia I won by advantages, and it’s a little risky to be ahead by just advantages, because at any point she could score a point and win. Every fight has a degree of difficulty; I’m very big, and sometimes it’s complicated fighting with smaller girls. I feel much better fighting in my own weight class.
Gabi Garcia was in the stand cheering for you. Do you have a message for her?
I don’t have much to say to Gabi, but I do about Gabi. She has been a valuable piece in BJJ, and, even if in ten years someone does what she did, it won’t be the same. She has done a lot for women’s BJJ, and I think the first thing we owe her is respect. I like her a lot, and I will always admire her. I really want her to come back in 2018; I dream of sharing a podium with her!
Do you think the Worlds would have been more challenging to you if Dominyka were present? How do you think the final would have gone?
I don’t see it as more challenging. Our biggest opponent is ourselves — our mind, anxiety and fears. I don’t know how a fight with Dominyka would have played out, but I would have faced her the same as I faced all the others. A determining factor is heart, the will to win, and I think I have that in spades. I believe that on the mat is that moment that counts, and, when that day comes, it will no doubt be a great fight.
As well as getting double gold at the Worlds, it’s worth noting that you did the same across the Grand Slam. What does such a big victory mean to you?
I’m trying to wake up from the dream I’m living. This is very important to me, not because I conquered it, but for all I’ve been through on my path here. Seeing these eight gold medals makes me look back and see how much I worked to get here, and how many humiliations I had to swallow quietly. I cried a lot, but today I cry with a smile on my face.
Even with a legion of passionate fans, you are always the target of mean messages. How to you deal with that?
Today, the athlete they criticized so much became world champion just one minute into the final, as she pulled guard and sank the leg lock. Before I went in to fight, when they announced my name, everybody was quiet. The only thing that came to my mind was that everybody was thinking, “Fatty fight — it’ll just be ten minutes of standup.” I really want to do differently today. I didn’t expect to finish early, but I wanted to try to show I can be really good at that which I do. I don’t ask anyone to enjoy my BJJ; I respect everyone’s opinion. The only thing I’d like is respect; I think there’s a shortage of that. No one knows my story. No one has lived my life. I don’t care about proving to anybody that I’m the best; I’m there to beat my fears. I think criticizing me won’t change anybody’s life in the slightest. Today I’m a world champion thanks to criticism, because, if it weren’t for it, I think my will to win would not be quite as big.
And what is your tip for new athletes who want to shine in BJJ?
First is always staying down to earth, but most important is not to try to please anyone. Being yourself, with no need to step on anybody. Be honest, because that counts a lot in fighting. God will give you what you really deserve.