Those who were at the 2010 Pan Jiu–Jitsu Championships in Irvine, California witnessed one of the most outstanding matches in 2010… Kron Gracie vs. Abmar Barbosa.
Going into this match, Kron Gracie was the one of the favorites to win his weight class that consisted of gamed competitors such as Sergio Moraes, Lucas Leite, Abmar Barbosa, Kayron Gracie, and Rodrigo Teixeira (just to name a few). On that faithful day, the Goliath of the medio class was defeated by a lesser known but equality talented Abmar Barbosa. After winning that match, Barbosa went on to beat his good friend, World Champion Lucas Leite, and obtained the silver medal in a very close battle against Kron’s cousin, Kayron Gracie.
In the months following this exciting match, Barbosa went on to medal in the Honolulu Open and the Asian Open. Additionally, Barbosa was commissioned to train UFC lightweight contender Joe Lauzon and was invited to visit Hilo, Hawaii by the legendary BJ Penn.
Below is an exclusive interview from Abmar Barbosa. Enjoy!
Submission Control: What was it like growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil?
Abmar Barbosa: For me, it was good, I love Brazil, it’s my country. I lived in Rio Claro, which is a small town in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. My grandmother, mother and brother all live there. I went to school for accounting, but at twenty-two, I realized that I did not want be an accountant for the rest of my life. So I gave that up to do Jiu Jitsu full time.
SC: What attracted to you Jiu Jitsu?
AB: Before I started Jiu Jitsu, I was a swimmer. The funny thing is that I have medals for coming in last place. I was really bad, I think a rock can swim better than me. I was terrible, but I tried really hard. One day I said “I don’t have time for this anymore!” Therefore, I tried Jiu Jitsu for fun to see what it was about; after three months of training, I could tell that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
AB: Jiu Jitsu has changed my life a lot. Honestly, it has given me strength to overcome adversity. I told people I wanted to be a professional Jiu Jitsu player, but people laughed at me, they did not have faith in me. You know what, those people gave me power. People would say to me “Abmar, you like to run towards the opposite side of the norm.” I would tell them “yes, I like to go towards the opposite, because I don’t like to take the easy road… If you take the easy road, your accomplishments lack value.” I like it when people discourage me and tell me that it is impossible for me to do things; when people tell me that it is impossible, I will go after it and do it with 100% effort. When I was a brown belt, someone I looked up to dearly told me that I would never be a professional athlete, that I would never explode on the big scene and that I would never leave this small town. Look at me now, yes I did come from a small town, but through my own efforts, I was able to make it. Now, I travel the teaching my style of Jiu Jitsu, I compete in highest level, I have sponsors that support me and I have fans who wants to see me do well. I am so grateful for all the good future that I have been blessed with.
SC: What do you mean when you say “anger brought me to Jiu Jitsu, but the love made me stay”?
AB: Laughs. I started saying that as a joke. I started Jiu Jitsu, because people always talked about it and, at that time, I did not know what it was. The anger brought me to Jiu Jitsu, because when I was at school, I had many fights and people would beat me up all the time. Now, I’m a professional athlete, I make my living through Jiu Jitsu. I love it so much, I gave up a good job and a comfortable lifestyle to pursue Jiu Jitsu. When I left Brazil for the US, I did not have a place to sleep; I would sleep on the mats. When I go to different countries and the gym owners would have difficulties raising the money to get me there, I would tell them not to go crazy, just let me stay with them to help keep their costs down. I love Jiu Jitsu, and I love traveling to different place to see the people of whom I share a common bond with.
SC: You have been training with Robert Drysdale for the last 3 years, how did you guys meet?
AB: I’ve been friends with Robert for a long time. I meet him at a tournament when he was a blue belt. It’s funny because every time I would see him, he would be sleeping before his match. I would ask him how could he sleep right before a fight, then go, and win. He would not give me an answer. He would just laugh. I started Jiu Jitsu with Ramon Lemos. When Ramon joined Brasa, I because a member of Brasa. I joined Robert when he left Brasa to open up his school.
AB: I miss my friends and family, I really miss my grandmother. But most of all, I miss Brazilian Barbeque. I MISS MY CHURRASCARIA! Laughs and rubs his stomach
SC: You have a very strong bond with grandmother and your family, what made you come to the Unites States?
AB: My sponsors and family helped me a lot with money in the past. Like all who come to the US, I came here to pursue a dream, to live a better life and to make my own future. It’s my time to repay my family and friends for all the gifts and support they have given me in the past.
SC: You are known for you pace and your tremendous guard, what drives you to play such a relentless game?
AB: Sometimes I want to stop a little to rest… Sometimes I’m tired and want to breathe, but I feel defeated when stop. I ask myself, why am I tired? I’m in a fight, it’s a ten minute match, did I not train hard enough? WHY AM I TIRED? I NEED TO TRAIN MORE! Again, it’s a ten minute fight, you need to start and you need to finish. I’m not going to lie to you, at the six minute mark I’m dead tired, but I keep moving. If I stop and rest, I’m done.
SC: What is the most important advice you can give someone who wants to mimic your style.
AB: My advice is to enjoy Jiu Jitsu and stay happy. When you compete, go happy. You can’t go to compete because someone wants you to go… you paid for the registration. If you don’t want to go… don’t go, because you will be doomed to lose. Competing should not be an obligation. So what if you were a Pan American or a Mundial champion? If you start thinking that you have to submit so and so, you have to beat so and so, what if I lose, etc…. you will ultimately lose the enjoyment of competing. When you compete, you should be only competing for yourself, not for others.
SC: How do you handling winning and how do you handle defeat?
AB: When I win, I feel happy and incredible! It is impossible for me to put it into words and explain the feeling I get when I win. I feel like I’m on top of the world. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I guess only those who really put it on the line in competition can relate. Whether it’s physical or psychological issues, people usually do not go into a competition at 100%; however when you overcome those issues and win in a competition the joy you feel is unimaginable. You ask about the time you lose… well it’s the complete opposite. For me it’s all or nothing. When I win I feel like a ten, when I lose I feel like a one… there is no such thing as a middle ground.
SC: When you compete, do you have a strategy in mind?
AB: No, not really, I do not really have a strategy in mind. In Jiu Jitsu, it’s all about reaction. A match changes all the time, it’s difficult to predict one person’s reaction versus another. I don’t like to watch my opponent’s matches. Maybe he acts differently against me because he thinks he knows what I’m going do against his one move. I like to face my opponent without all the pre-match anticipation… I just like to go.
SC: Whom do you admire the most as a fighter and as a person?
AB: I don’t only have one person, the first two people that come to mind is Rickson Gracie and Robert Drysdale. To me they share the same qualities… they are both great fighters, and above, both are really good people to be with. I think we have an incredible connection, I feel good when I talk to both of them. Of course, we talk about Jiu Jitsu, but we also talk about things beyond Jiu Jitsu. We talk about life and the philosophies on how to live a fulfilling life.
SC: With all your travels, have you seen a style difference in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Europe, Japan, U.S. and Brazil?
AB: No, it’s relatively the same, I can’t say that Brazil is better than the U.S., or the U.S. is better than Japan. I think that Jiu Jitsu is so widespread now that everyone has the ability to learn from everyone. People realize that Jiu Jitsu is the best and they want to learn BJJ. I’m really surprised by the high level of Jiu Jitsu in the different countries I have been to.
SC: What do you value most about teaching?
AB: When you start teaching, you start to pay more attention about the details of a move, and then you start to see results. For example, you have two students who train with each other day in and day out, one of them takes first and the other one takes second. I go to competitions to coach and to watch them fight. After the competition, we go back to the academy to work on the things that worked well for them and the mistakes they made during their matches. Once we fix or tighten their moves, they both take first place… that makes me happy. To go back to your question, what I value most about teaching, is the success of my students.
SC: What is the most important thing a teacher can teach his student?
AB: When you become a teacher, you pay more attention to because people come to train with you and they completely trust you. You tell them, hey drink this after you train because it will help you recover after training, they will go and drink it. You have to set a good example for your students. If you go and party all the time and drink alcohol all the time, you have to mind your actions, because it isn’t just about you… you don’t walk alone, you walk as a team. As a teacher, you influence others, the more you divert for a straight path, the move your students will veer also.
SC: What is the most important thing a student can teach his teacher?
AB: As a teacher, you should learn from everyone, whether it’s a white belt or a black belt, you should learn from everyone. The problem is people have egos; the ego blocks the learning process. For example, you have one blue belt student that is really good and he has one choke that works really well for him, but it does not work for you. If your ego gets in the way, you will never understand how the choke works, because you won’t ask the student… why won’t you ask? So what if he is a blue belt? That is your ego getting the way of your own progress. Personally, I will go and ask “hey man, what are you doing over there? How are you getting that choke?” For me, I want to keep learning, I don’t want to stop, I want to gain knowledge from everywhere. I think this is the most important thing about our sport, there is so much information out there, put your ego to the side and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
SC: Where do you see BJJ in the next ten years?
AB: I think BJJ will continue to grow, but we must overcome the whole team/ego mentality. For example, in Brazil, people are unwilling to cross team alliances, you will not see a Checkmat guy train with a Gracie Barra guy, you will not see a Alliance guy train with Brasa guy. In Brazil, information is contained in a silo. When BJJ came to the US, it was the same thing. I think now, more people are willing to share information in order to improve their own Jiu Jitsu and as a result Jiu Jitsu grows as a whole. I also see this happening in Japan right now, the walls between schools are being broken down.
SC: Is there any interest in fighting MMA in the future?
AB: It’s impossible to give a definitive answer, it all depends. Right now I’m very happy, I’m in a really good place right now. Of course Jiu Jitsu does not make the same amount of money as MMA, but it all depends on the proposal. If the offer is good, I will definitely go.
SC: What’s in your future?
AB: I just want to continue to train and continue to compete. I like to live for the present and not the future. Maybe I will die tomorrow; I don’t really want to think about it. There are too many unpredictable variables to think about. Live for today!
SC: Any final thoughts?
AB: Thank you so much for this opportunity and for your support. For my fans, thank you for supporting me, next year will be another great year… I promise you that. Again, thank you so much and be sure to look for my DVD on http://www.Digitsu.com or http://www.abmarbarbosabjj.com/. If anyone wants to contact me for seminars, please email me at email@example.com.