Brazilian Top Team is one of the top teams in Rio de Janeiro, producing champions in both BJJ and MMA. One of the most respected teams – not just in Rio but also the world – Brazilian Top Team (BTT) is a popular destination for visitors who come to Rio to train BJJ.
Founded by a number of former Carlson Gracie students, including Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry and Luis ‘Bebeo’ Duarte, Brazilian Top Team was one of the first MMA super-teams. But their BJJ roots run deep, and even though the MMA team vastly outnumber the BJJ squad, they’ve always maintained a strong tradition of training and competing in the gi. Now Bustamante runs BTT alone, acting as head coach for both the MMA and BJJ teams.
Visitors are very welcome and there is almost always at least a few people on the mat hailing from various countries. This is partly due to BTT’s strong international network, and partly because of BTT’s reputation among the wider BJJ and MMA community. Usually, at least a couple of people present will speak English, with varying degrees of fluency. Pedro Duarte (who currently teaches many of the gi classes at BTT) speaks excellent English, Bustamante himself speaks good English as do many others.
A Typical Class
It’s hard to know when a class has actually begun at BTT. Usually, there is no warm up – you’re expected to do that yourself, but the locals mostly use the time to chat about last night’s football match.
The formal start of the session comes when the instructor calls everyone in for the technique. Instruction is always thorough, with a high emphasis placed on make -or-break details. Usually the instructor will show anywhere between one and three techniques, allowing you plenty of time between demonstrations to drill the move.
Rolling is competitive, but not crazy. The level of the black belts at BTT is high, but this also applies to the lower ranks. There are blue belts at BTT who have held the same rank for 10 years! Part of this is because of the crossover with the MMA team – some fighters don’t spend too much time in the gi, so their experience doesn’t always match their grade. Either way, there are no easy rolls at BTT.
Rounds last on average 7 minutes, with regular break for water. The gym is large and airy but because of direct sunlight in the middle of the day, it gets incredibly hot in there and the vinyl mat can become like a swimming pool.
A Note on the MMA team
Many of the pro MMA fighters at BTT are also black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This means it is not unheard of to see famous fighters like Rousimar Palhares, Milton Vieira and of course Murilo Bustamante himself all training in the gi.
Though BTT is best known for their strong tradition of producing MMA fighters, jiu-jitsu is still very much a part of the academy’s ethos and they are always well-represented in local tournaments.
The general atmosphere is casual, so don’t expect an instructor hovering over you correcting all of your mistakes. As with many academies in Rio, the onus is very much upon yourself to develop with the coaches there to help should you need.
The name Brazilian Top Team is well known and respected worldwide for a good reason. The level of black belts is high, and while the class structure may appear informal the technical instruction is always excellent. The huge mat and wide choice of sparring partners make this a popular choice for visitors.
Academy Fact File:
Head instructor: Murilo Bustamante
Facilities: Huge mat, matted walls, boxing ring.
Av number of people per class: 12-20
Speak English?: Yes
Location: Lagoa side of Leblon
Suggested transport: Bus stops within 5 mins walk
MMA / no-gi: Yes
Other martial arts: Muay Thai, boxing
Years open: 10+
Titles / champions / championships: IBJJF Brazilian team titles, numerous individual IBJJF titles.
Clube Associação Atlética Banco do Brasil
Avenida Borges de Medeiros, 829 – Lagoa
Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22430-041
Tucked away at the back of a huge health club right next to Lagoa de Rodrigo Freitas, the gym is easy to find from both the Lagoa side or Leblon side. It is less than one block away from the popular shopping mall ‘Shopping Leblon’.
When you enter the club, the gym is found upstairs at back of the compound just behind the tennis courts and above a row of beauty salons. Our advice is to use the back entrance, found just 10 metres or so off the main street Av. Afranio de Melo Franco. Take care of the housing projects behind the club, they are quiet and usually pose no problem but are low-cost social housing and so the demographic is different to the rest of up-market Leblon.
Watching the MMA team
A profile on BTT fighter and BJJ black belt Milton Vieira
Murilo Bustamante BJJ Heroes profile
(Somewhat out of date, says Bustamante has moved to the USA but he definitely lives in Rio)