Tibau trains in the gi for UFC 164: ‘I was drifting from the essence of Jiu-Jitsu’

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Gleison Tibau training on Recreio beach. Photo: TalkSports

With his 20th UFC bout coming up, Gleison Tibau has plenty of reasons to dream of making his way to the belt. He used to train a lot of BJJ when he was starting out but after a break from the mat is now returning to the art’s essence in order to find that extra edge needed if he is to become a lightweight champion.

After a physical training session on the sand of Recreio beach in Rio de Janeiro, Tibau chatted with GRACIEMAG about his UFC beginnings, about Jamie Varner, his UFC 164 opponent, and about losing and gaining weight. Check it out.

GRACIEMAG.com:  With your 20th UFC fight approching, do you remember your debut? How was that time for you?

Gleison Tibau: I lived in Natal and had fought at Meca and other big Brazilian events. I went eight months without fighting because of lack of opponents. Then I ended up in ATT in the U.S. to try and get some international exposure, and within a month I had the opportunity of making my UFC debut in the welterweight division as a last-minute replacement to Nick Diaz’s opponent. I lost but the promoters enjoyed my performance. So I dropped back to my normal weight and thus began my journey in the UFC.

By the way, how do you go about losing and gaining weight for fights? Do you have a special diet?

I think what’s most important is not just regaining the weight, but doing it right so as to fight well. The weight loss is always under very strict rules, and it’s important not to get injured so you don’t have to take any meds that can mess up your diet. I lose 15kg for the weigh-in and gain 10 or 11kg the next day. Even my weight gaining has to be pretty strict. If I want to do it with full force, I can gain even 16kg in one day. I’m dieting even as I’m regaining weight.

So you have to put the brakes on your weight gain?

My genes help me a lot. I diet after the weigh-in in order to not gain too much weight. By regaining 10kg I get in the cage light and feeling well. One time I gained 16kg and felt heavy and lacked stamina. So I choose to regain less weight and I’m at 100 percent on fight day.

What do you deem the most important aspect of Jiu-Jitsu for an MMA fighter?

Jiu-Jitsu was a very important part of my life. Lately I’d been training no-gi for too long and I felt I was drifting from the essence of Jiu-Jitsu in my game. So for my last fight, against John Cholish, I tried a lot in the gi and I felt a big difference. I think every MMA fighter should train in the gi, it’s very important. So I trained a lot in the gi, I adjusted my game, I was able to get submissions. I think the great fighters can’t just put the gi aside. The gi discipline is very educational and gives you that thirst for learning more every day. It forces you to refine your technique and learn details. No other type of fighting can give you that.

How do you view Jamie Varner and what can this match give you in terms of UFC projection?

Varner has good pressure, good wrestling, and he’s a good boxer. He’s physically very strong, but I’ve looked at some of his fights and he makes Jiu-Jitsu errors. He’s been submitted a few times. So I’ll be honing my ground work and working toward getting a submission. I believe a victory over him will put me in the division’s top ten. He was a WEC champion and he fought all the top guys over there. I’m focused on that right now. Now I have that goal on my mind and I train every day thinking of the belt.

UFC 164

Milwaukee, USA

August 31, 2013

Ben Henderson vs TJ Grant

Frank Mir vs Josh Barnett

Chad Mendes vs Clay Guida

Erik Koch vs Dustin Poirier

Ben Rothwell vs Brandon Vera

Gleison Tibau vs Jamie Varner

Chico Camus vs Kyung Ho Kang

Soa Palelei vs Nikita Krylov

Louis Gaudinot vs Tim Elliott

Derek Brunson vs Yoel Romero

Jared Hamman vs Magnus Cedenblad

Pascal Krauss vs Hyun Gyu Lim

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