One of the attractions of training in Rio de Janeiro is its rich history of jiu Jitsu and vale tudo. Rio is home to some of Brazil’s biggest teams and fighters and if you go to the right spots there’s always a good chance you’ll spot jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts celebrities, from old school heroes to up and coming sensations. There’s something about seeing the likes of Anderson Silva grabbing an acai at his local juice bar that beats waiting in line for a quick handshake and a photo at a convention or martial arts expo. The only problem is explaining to your non-training friends just why you’re so excited about your picture with some guy with cauliflower ears.
Where can I meet famous fighters?
At the Gym
When training at one of Rio’s academies, you might find yourself training under or even alongside some famous faces – or even hanging out with them after class. Many top tier fight teams have separate training for their fight teams, but even at Nova Uniao or Brazilian Top Team you might see pro fighters joining in with regular sessions.
Visiting a gym is a great way to see your favourite fighters in action. Brazilians, and Cariocas (natives of Rio) in particular, are renowned for their welcoming nature and this is also true in the fight game. Most academies are more than happy to open their doors to gringos, while fighters tend to appreciate recognition from abroad. Some companies organise trips to academies, but you can also do this on your own.
If you train regularly at a gym you’ll have a better chance to get to know the fighters and coaches. You can also visit lots of different gyms for a chance to meet and train with the top teams in Rio.
There are tournaments almost every weekend in Rio. Local events attract plenty of black belt competitors, while bigger events such as the Rio Open see BJJ royalty such as Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, Fabio Gurgel or Terere in attendance, as well as up and coming stars like the Miyao brothers.
Rio has a thriving MMA scene. Events such as Shooto, Bitetti Combat and Jungle Fight always feature up and coming fighters from established teams such as BTT, Nova Uniao or Team Nogueira.
You’re very likely to see more established names there to corner teammates, such as Vitor Belfort, the Nogueira brothers, Jose Aldo, and many more.
Outside of training and fighting, Cariocas, as natives of Rio are known, are famed for their love of the beach and fighters are no exception. The jiu jitsu lifestyle revolves around training, surfing, and hanging out on the beach. Ipanema and Copacabana draw fighters from nearby academies, such as BTT or Checkmat, while the Nogueira brothers can often be seen running along the beaches of Barra da Tijuca. Many fighters can be seen on Praia do Pepe, a well known surfing spot and social hub on Barra beach.
Bars and Restaurants
Fighters need to eat too, and knowing the best places can increase your chances of bumping into your idols. Bibi Sucos is a celebrated chain of juice bars, known for its healthy food and acai. It’s no surprise that it’s popular with local fighters: even fighters from out of town have been known to drop by to check out the food. Anderson Silva is a regular visitor, while Renzo Gracie, Vitor Belfort, Junior Dos Santos and Braulio Estima have all been seen eating there.
Many fighters are prolific social media users. Instagram and Twitter are especially popular. UFC fighter Milton Vieira often posts his whereabouts, while 135lb UFC interim champ Renan Barao and Dudu Dantas, Bellator bantamweight champion and Nova Uniao standout, can often be found checking into eateries near their Flamengo headquarters. Another visitor discovered that he was sitting on the same stretch of beach as Kyra Gracie shortly after she posted a picture on Instagram.
Here’s a list of BJJ / MMA Twitter & Instagram accounts to get you started
Kyra Gracie on Twitter
Felipe Costa on Twitter
Ricardo Vieira on Twitter
Antonio Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira on Twitter
Antonio Rogerio ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira on Twitter
Rousimar Palhares on Twitter
Instagram – @toquinhomma
Vitor Belfort on Twitter
Jacare Souza on Twitter
Eduardo ‘Dudu’ Dantas on Twitter
Erick Silva on Twitter
Milton Vieira on Twitter
This article is a guest post from Dom Tsui, a blue belt from London, England, who spent six months training BJJ in Rio de Janeiro.