Known as the home of many amazing MMA fighters, Nova Uniao is also a jiu-jitsu powerhouse with a huge team and many international representatives.
Founded by Andre Pederneiras, a Carlson Gracie student, and Wendall Alexander, who comes from the non-Gracie ‘Fadda’ lineage, the team was formed in 1995.
Though the name Nova Uniao is maybe best known in connection with MMA thanks to fighters such as Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Dudu Dantas, Vitor Shaolin Ribeiro, Marlon Sandro and more, NU boasts a huge team of solid grapplers. Robson Moura, Leo Santos and even BJ Penn have won gold in the gi while representing Nova Uniao.
The Rio HQ in Flamengo is a little off the beaten path for tourists and travellers but the team are welcoming to foreigners wishing to train there.
The gym is on the top floor of a huge health club that boasts a swimming pool, Pilates rooms, a full weights gym and even a rehab centre.
The training area is a very long plain matted room divided into two mats by a boxing ring in the middle. Though maybe only 5m (15ft) wide, the gym is very long, around 40m. The walls are also matted.
It is possible for foreigners to train MMA at Nova Uniao, but not everyone is permitted. Pederneiras is selective of who he allows in and will want to know your team affiliation and record as well as seeing you train in BJJ and Muay Thai sessions. Even then, he may decline you.
A Typical Class
Warm-ups are energetic and usually led by one of the brown belts. They consist of running and plenty of movements such as shrimping, breakfalls, animal movements and such. You will be thoroughly warm by the time you are done.
The technique portion of training is relatively brief. The coach, often ‘Dede’ himself, will demo usually only one position (sometimes more). This may be a submission attack, a sweep or reversal , or a pass. You will be paired off to drill the technique. Coaches roam the mat offering feedback and instruction.
Rolling is both technical and competitive. The large competition team push each other and the results are evident in their many podium finishes.
Nova Uniao is one of the biggest and best teams in BJJ and MMA for a good reason. They boast a large team with a huge depth of talent; Dede once told me his team has around 300 black belts around the world. The training there is similar to what you can find elsewhere, but it is the wide variety of training partners that makes it special.
Head instructor: Andre Pederneiras
Price: R$230/month, or R$215/months for 2 months, R$200/month for 3 months, R$190/month for 4 months, R$175/month for 5 months, R$165/month for 6 months.There is no joining fee but you are required to pay for a pre-exercise doctor’s clearance certificate.
Facilities: The dojo is bare but the rest of the gym is impressive. Everything you’d expect in a health club.
Average numbers of BB’s at training: 6-15 depending on the night.
Av number of people per class: 40+
Speak English?: Enough
Location: Busy main street, easy to find
Suggested transport: Subway stop 100m away
MMA / no-gi: Yes
Other martial arts: Muay Thai, Capoeira, judo, Taekwondo
Years open: 17
Titles / champions / championships: 2x IBJJF Team World Champion, 2x CBJJO World Cup Champion
Notable students: See above
Rua Marques de Abrantes, 88, 96, 100
Rio de Janeiro
The club is situated on a busy main street only seconds walk away from the subway. Though the area of Flamengo is some distance from traditional tourist areas, it is readily accessible by anyone staying in