The 2016 IBJJF World Championships was full of drama and excitement. Buchecha came back from injury to win his 3rd open weight title tying Roger Gracie. Bruno Malfacine won his weight division for a record 8th time. Alliance won their 11th team title. On a more somber note Romulo Barral and Michelle Nicolini retired from competition, at least at Worlds. I wanted to start with pictures of Rominho and Michelle since they have had a tremendous impact on the BJJ community and will be missed. There will be tons of coverage on the event itself but here are 14 lessons from the top competitors at the event on how to approach the day of competition.
Know Your Limitations:
The legendary Nino Schembri was in the house and I asked him if he had plans to compete again in the future. He said that he’s so focused on growing his school that it’s hard to break away and focus on his own personal training.
Lesson: If you can’t give 100% strongly consider whether you should do the tournament in the first place.
I wrote about the BJJ Mental Coach’s book HERE. One of my big takeaways from his book was not focusing on the outcome of the fight. You should definitely want to win, but on the day of the event you have to focus on doing your best.
Lesson: Don’t let yourself get worried about “what ifs” and your 3rd or 4th + fight. Be in the moment and focus on performing at your best against the opponent in front of you.
Acclimate to the Area:
Bernardo Faria flew in a full 5 days ahead of his fight. While he was coaching and helping the team, he also wanted to make sure he had time to acclimate to the new timezone. If you don’t have 5 days to spend you can follow Marcelo’s advice which was to arrive at least a full day ahead of the tournament to get adequate rest for the fight.
Lesson: Don’t rush yourself leading up to or on the day of the fight. Keep your nerves at bay by giving yourself time to adjust, feel comfortable, and rest.
Diet the Day of the Event:
Similar to warming up, knowing what to eat can be challenging. I asked the legendary Xande Ribeiro what he ate the day of the tournament and he gave the answer everyone does…”The same thing I eat every day.” When I dug deeper he said he usually has scrambled eggs and bacon. Throughout the day he eats a lot of fruit and if he starts to feel like he has low energy he takes a shot of honey
Lesson: Xande said it best, “The lion hunts on an empty stomach. A little hunger keeps you sharp. A full belly makes you lazy.”
Bea Mesquita and Buchecha entered the building with large bags in tow. A few things to bring with you are: Extra gis, Water…lots of water, headphones, your favorite playlist, tennis shoes, and flip flops. You’ll also note that both were wearing hoodies despite the heat to make sure they stayed warm.
Lesson: Stay warm and bring plenty of food, water, and spare gis for competition.
Build Friendships with Rivals:
The top female competitors spend time together in the bull pen despite knowing they will be fighting each other sooner than later. BJJ is still a tightly knit community and if you compete frequently you will run across the same people. Take advantage to build relationships with them. Not only might you have an opportunity to train with a top competitor at your size, weight, and age, you will likely find the additional competitive push that comes from knowing them.
Lesson: Support your rivals right up until the time you face them on the mat. We are fighting to promote the same sport, after all.
Stand Out From the Crowd:
Rodrigo “Comprido” Medieros said that he used to not get noticed at tournaments so he started dying his hair. As soon as he did he received a ton of attention and he’s carried on the tradition ever since. Don’t be afraid to find your own way to stand out whether it’s your beard, hair, mouthpiece, or fighting style.
Lesson: Don’t settle for average. Whether it’s your attire, hair, attitude, or fighting style, find a way to express yourself.
Open Weight Vs Just Weight Category:
I asked Gorilla Hands Magid Hage if he was competing in the open weight and he said, “Hell No! Look how tired those guys are. I’m saving it for the division. Sometimes I do (open weight) and sometimes I don’t. It depends on how I’m feeling. But if the number of guys in the open division grossly outweigh you sometimes its better to focus on your division.
Lesson: It’s ok to put all your eggs in one basket. Decide if you want experience from maximum fights at the potential expense of fatigue or whether you want to go all in for your division.
It’s always difficult to find that right balance between warming up and wearing out. Especially in the black belt division where you may have long periods between fights. Seasoned veteran James Puopolo said he focuses on using a foam roller to prep his muscles. He recommended Yoga for BJJ and uses poses and stretches to prepare for a fight. He also likes animal movements and dynamic stretching.
Lesson: Don’t blow your wad in the warmup. It’s difficult to do a full warm up, completely cool down, then do it again in an hour. Make sure your body is prepped to avoid injury and believe in your training and conditioning.
Top Game Vs Bottom Game:
More and more double guard pulls are prevalent in tournaments. I asked the always exciting fighter, Josh “Hingertine” Hinger whether he preferred to play on top or on bottom and he said, “That’s easy. I always play on top. Why would you not want to have gravity on your side? The only reason to play bottom is to get to the top, and my professor, Andre Galvao would agree. Being on bottom sucks!”
Lesson: Play where you think you have the best chance to beat your adversary, but regardless of whether you start on top or bottom, look to get to the dominant position as soon as possible.
Fighting Your Heroes:
Edwin Najmi was a stand out at the event and made it all the way to 2nd place in his first Worlds as a black belt. He looked poised and confident in every fight, even when facing legends like Lucas Lepri. When asked how he kept from being intimidated by big names he said that he didn’t focus on the names at all. He gave so much in preparation and the only goal was to kill the competition and win. It obviously worked well and I’m sure he will do even better in the future.
Lesson: Don’t be too respectful or fearful of a name. There will be time to be a fan after the tournament is over. If being on top of the podium is your ambition than you have to believe you deserve it.
Never Stop Fighting:
Felipe Preguica is known for never being out of the fight until the time runs out. His fight where he came back to win by submission after having his arm broken is one of the most inspirational fights in the BJJ library to date. When asked how he finds the strength to keep fighting he said, “Going into the tournament I think about how badly I want to win. I think about how much preparation I put in and making that work worth it. No matter what position I am in or what the score is I constantly say in my mind, “I Can Win! I Will Win!”
Lesson: Regardless of the outcome, you have to believe you can win during the fight. Being unbreakable in spirit is a great step towards dominating the competition.
Never Become Complacent
Bruno Malfacine won his 8th title in his weight division, a feat never before accomplished. He said no matter what he accomplishes he always wants to see what else he can do. That mentality is what allowed him to continue to win when others haven’t been able to.
Lesson: The moment you become complacent is the moment you stop progressing. Keep pushing your limits and you might make history.
Leverage the Support of Your Team
The General, Fabio Gurgel, was the biggest cheerleader in the crowd. He credits Alliance’s 11th team win to the emphasis on all belts and practitioners on the team, not just the top athletes. He constantly talks about the team before himself and is the first to provide support when anyone on the team needs it.
Lesson: Whether you bring a giant team to cheer for you, or one friend to tell you the time and yell instructions, having the right person in your corner on the day of the fight will greatly increase your chances of winning.
This year had many memorable moments and afforded many lessons learned. I hope you appreciate the 14 listed above. What did I miss that you’d like to hear about in the future?
Also, don’t forget to have fun! The best part of the tournament, aside from competing, is winning! And the next best thing to winning is getting to spend time with like-minded people. I’ll close this out with a shot of the commentators keeping everyone online up to date, and Fighters Market showing everyone how to make that money!(Those aren’t $1 bills yo. Those are $20’s!)