One of the black belts receiving the most fanfare at the 2012 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Champion wasn’t even in the adult division. The heavyweight Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida, a teacher at Gracie Barra San Clemente and Gracie Barra Dana Point, went all out in the master division, capturing gold at both weight and open weight in Irvine. Besides the tough opposition, Cachorrinho also had to contend with the expectations of the throngs of fans who wanted to see Ricardo “Cachorrão” Almeida’s brother in action. GRACIEMAG.com had a brief chat with the champ, who is one of the leaders at Carlos Gracie Jr.’s network of schools.
What was it like to face your former training partner Fabio Leopoldo in those two finals?
It was awesome. I take facing old training partners quite naturally. I always had a great relationship with Fabio, and despite our differences, I still respect him, especially on the mat. He’s a great fighter. I always trained a lot with Fabio and know his game well. I know his strength is the rightward half-guard. I put together a winning plan with the help of my brother Ricardo.
What did you learn from winning the absolute title?
Man, the greatest challenge is to keep the businesses running while I dedicate myself to training. My journey to the Pan started at the start of the year, doing lots of planning and organizing. The victory wasn’t winning itself, but to have managed to get in that shape and level of technique without letting the GB school association slip, or my own schools for that matter. It wasn’t just my training partners who were essential to my being able to do it, but my business partners, too. The coolest part was that everyone was there. My wife, my daughter, my team at work, my team at training and our students at GB San Clemente and Dana Point. I feel the gang identifies with me and was so happy because they no I have a million obligations to take care of outside of training, and I still managed to compete so well. That’s the reality a lot of GB teachers have to deal with these days.
So what’s the lesson that came of the double win that you can pass on to students and fans?
I really want my students and GB teammates to realize that it really is possible to keep in good physical and technical shape and still do a good job in our project of delivering Jiu-Jitsu to everyone, as set forth in the school motto. I fought for them. To make that example.
What’s it like having Marcio Feitosa in your corner? From you two dealing with each other on a daily basis in the GB Association, I imagine it’s easy. Or isn’t it?
Man, it’s like magic! I don’t consider myself too smart of a fighter (laughs). I use a lot of force when it comes down to it. And Marcio is a brilliant strategist, sees things in Jiu-Jitsu matches before they happen. When he’s in my corner I perform a lot better. Having Ricardo there was really great too. A lot of people feel Ricardo is one of the best Jiu-Jitsu coaches in the world, and having his support was key. He’s the one who put the final touches on my game for me to compete well against Fabio.
Your brother didn’t end up competing. Was that frustrating to you?
It was. But not everything always goes to plan, does it? I really want to compete in the same weight group as him at the No-Gi Worlds, so we can close out. Who knows? Maybe we’ll both be in the adult medium heavyweight group.
As a spectator, how did you feel about there not being an absolute final in adult division at the 2012 Pan?
Hard to pass a judgment. Yes, it’s no good for the crowd. But it’s really hard for close training partners to compete against each other. It creates a difficult atmosphere at the academy. A lot of that also has to do with the maturity of the athletes. Rômulo [Barral] and Roger [Gracie] always compete against each other, and their relationship was never put under strain. I’m in favor of competing; but only when the athletes are able to do so. In the end, they and the crowd lose out when the match doesn’t take place. But I feel it’s part of Jiu-Jitsu culture, and I haven’t heard too much of an outcry.