Ricardo Vieira is one of the most accomplished Jiu Jitsu competitors of all time with several world titles and national titles. Ricardo, or Rico as his friends call him, has been away from the upper echelon of the sport after a series of injuries to his knees and kidney surgery, also because he has been busy taking care of his gym (Ricardo is one of the head coaches of Checkmat) in Rio de Janeiro. More recently Vieira has been invited to the ADCC, the world’s most prestigious No Gi competition. We got together with him to find out more about these exciting news.
Ricardo Vieira: “The medals are only important to show to my team mates that all our hard work came through, but my victory is in every day of training”
This invitation was somewhat surprising to most fans of the sport who thought you would be retired from competitive Jiu Jitsu. Were you expecting this invitation?
RV: not in the slightest. I’ve been focused on other things in my life: my family, my gym, health. Suddenly I get these news. This is a dream I had about 10 years ago and now I get the chance to fulfil it. It is not the timing I would’ve hoped, but still a chance to be amongst the best in a legendary tournament. So I have to make that dream come true and have as much fun as I can with this opportunity. Kind of a shame to be so short notice, I will not have enough time to prepare myself to peak condition. My health is not longer that of an athlete. But I’ll do my best to prepare myself.
I’ve heard you were invited to compete at the ADCC in 2011 also. What happened in 2011, why didn’t that follow through?
RV: Invited? No, not really. I was coaching my brother on that ADCC, on the day of the flight to England they told be there was a vacancy and asked me if I wanted to fight. I said of course I would, but not that way. With no prestige, just filling in a gap. I’m not saying I’m the best but I would like to have a chance to prepare myself and defend my legacy in the sport. Unfortunately this event doesn’t come in the best of times either, I’m not in the prime of my life any longer, but the incentive of my students, my team and my family are the best, this is what will stay in my heart forever. These are the moments that will stay with me. The medals are only important to show to my team mates that all our hard work came through, but my victory is in every day of training, in every drop of sweat.
You are regarded as more of a kimono competitor, 9x world champion in the gi (although the Brazilian National No Gi title as well). What are you changing up in your camp for the ADCC?
RV: unfortunately I can’t change much. I have tough students who could make me bullet proof, nutritionists, physical trainers, doctors, etc. But I have my daily obligations. I’m the head of the household, I’m a businessman, a teacher, I have many obligations, I can’t let everything go for a tournament. This is no longer my objective in life. My goal today is to make my students’ dreams come true and to keep my standard of living balanced. It’s hard to live off BJJ, I have to work hard to keep everything in check (paying the bills) and managing all the day to day problems that come with running a big team.
RV: No, it won’t be possible, as I mentioned I can’t take the time off my business or my family to do anything like that. Surely that would be the wise choice to prepare for victory, but I wouldn’t fight with joy if I stayed away from my family for such a long time. I want to fight with joy and happy to be there, without focusing blindly on victory, I want to have a chance to show my technique so the event makers realize what they’ve been missing by not inviting me sooner.
You will be one of the lighter athletes category, you see this as an advantage or a disadvantage (the whole speed & agility vs. strength debate).
RV: I think everything is a disadvantage for me. Today I have several limitations, my body cannot take supplements as I had surgery to my kidneys a while back and cannot take creatine or even protein (laughs). That adding to my age with a body bruised and mended by the wars I’ve had in my career… I’m 34 years old and started competing at 7 years. Imagine how I feel at the end of each day of training and work.
You are seen by many as the representative of a more free-flow Jiu Jitsu style, a fighter who does not stall, something that some of the new positions have provided spectators in recent times. You think you will have to change something in your way of fighting to adapt to this “modern” jiu jitsu?
RV: this and my big fear. I like to “fight”. I don’t like this modern Jiujitsu. I’m from the time when we would go to the gym to train for competitions. Today people go to the internet and study the rules and draw their strategy. I’m going to ADCC to show my No Gi game and if possible be better then my opponents. I’ll fight the best fighters in the world… I am very happy. But I will continue with my strategy. “Porrada” (laughs).
After this experience in the ADCC, you plan to compete again?
RV: No… I’m stopping! Unless it is a very good contract I’m taking this opportunity to say goodbye to my fans. As my wife told me: “You have done it all in the sport, you don’t need to put yourself at risk any longer” unfortunately she’s right, it is difficult to accept this idea, but my body asks me to stop every day. I fear for my old age, I want to be a playful old man, playful like I’ve been all my life, but the way I’ve lived, I’m not so sure that will be possible.
Now changing the subject a little, you are one of the most respected teachers of jiu jitsu which remained in Rio de Janeiro. How do you see this migration instructors abroad and how you see the state of Jiu Jitsu in Rio de Janeiro today, and how do you compare the Brazilian tournaments to the ones around the globe?
RV: I consider myself really blessed. I believe that I embraced the opportunities that God gave me and I committed myself 100%. I’ve been and still am a very hard worker. With that I managed to establish myself in Rio. This migration is just because life is not easy here, everything works against you, education system, health, taxes… It’s difficult to remain here. This is why we lost so many big names and teachers to the world abroad. Big names and big events… A pity for those who stay … But I’m here to help anyone who stayed behind. There are still great coaches here, so lets keep training hard (laughs).
Banner picure of Sabrina Vasconcelos.