Known as one of the most charismatic and competent jiu jitsu coaches in the world, Aldo “Caveirinha” Januário has been the key component behind the success of many high level black belts in the past, including UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anos, Philipe Della Monica, Rodrigo Freitas and countless others.
One of the jiu jitsu pioneers in Belo Horizonte, a city that has brought grappling countless world champions, Januário has spent the past few years broadening his association “Caveirinha Jiu Jitsu Family” to the rest of the world, particularly Hawaii, where he set shop in 2000.
In this interview we talk to Caveirinha about Hawaiian jiu jitsu, his association and, of course, the upcoming fight between his black belt “RDA” and the bad boy of mixed martial arts (MMA) Conor Mcgregor.
You have been in Hawaii for almost 6 years now. How do you see the evolution of jiu jitsu in the archipelago throughout that period?
I think the biggest difference, the one I can really point my finger to between when I arrived and now is on the competitive side. Before I came there wasn’t the tradition of travelling to California to compete in the big comps. People were happy to fight locally. This was very bad for their growth as grapplers, because everyone knows that with every 24 hours that pass jiu jitsu evolves. I have black belts all over the world and they all know they have to compete against the best, and be there to watch where the sport is going otherwise you fall behind.
Another trend I am trying to stop here in Hawaii is that old thing: the guy gets his black belt and stops competing. This is another “tradition” that is very detrimental for the growth of the sport here. This, I think, is why BJ Penn is so popular in the region. He got his black belt and kept looking for more training and competition, never stopped evolving.
I have a couple of black belts here called Brandon Rogers and Jordan Gomez. Every tournament they enter they medal. I am also always training and competing as well and will be going to the Pan Ams to get another medal. I won it last year and this year I plan to repeat the deed and get the Worlds Masters as well.
How is it for a Rio de Janeiro native living on the oposite side of the world? Which were the biggest cultural differences you faced?
I usually say that Hawaii is like a mix of Rio and Florianopolis that worked out well. Great weather and atmosphere, without the crime. It is great to have my family here and know that they can walk anywhere at night safely. This is a great place to live.
When it comes down to training I don’t see a difference either. I was very welcome here, the Hawaiian culture is incredible, they pay attention and if you do right by them, they give back to you 3x. They train very hard. we have built a little army here with 3 affiliate gyms and another 1 in the books. This is just cementing our team. In Brazil and Europe Caverinha Jiu Jitsu is growing a lot too. We are getting a curriculum in place and belt system, following the guidelines of the IBJJF. We are trying to provide a service to anyone who joins our family. They will get the best jiu jitsu out there, always updated, friendly and high level.
It seems as though a lot of your students do well in MMA. The two biggest names to come out being Rafael dos Anjos and Igor Araújo, but there are more. To what do you attribute this, do you show self defence or MMA in your jiu jitsu curriculum?
Yes in my curriculum we have self defence and we also have a lot of no-gi. You need to have a good no-gi and for sure to succeed maybe at a later stage in MMA.
But it always helps if you know where you want to be from the get go. These two guys you mentioned always wanted to be in MMA, so with those objectives it was easier to set the rules for their evolution. Igor unfortunately had to abandon MMA due to family issues, his wife was very ill and he had 3 kids to raise so it was very hard for him. He was intelligent, he had 2 wins and 2 losses in the UFC but with all that was going on it was best to quit before his record would be damaged. I supported his decision and advised him to quit when he did, put the break on his career for a while come back strong later once this bad moment is behind their backs.
We also have “Borrachinha” coming through, and Matheus Nicolau. This team has such a solid foundation that many more will keep on coming. I’m always out there competing, being an example, so others can mirror me. Dos Anjos has many other people that inspire him to achieve great things, one of which is “Gordo“. An amazing warrior and an inspiring figure for me. Also, more recently, Rafael Cordeiro who is another amazing role model.
Seriously, RDA would do well even training by himself at home, but with the solid foundation I gave him and the support of Gordo, and Cordeiro, the sky’s the limit. Now he also has another great black belt behind him Phillipe Della Monica. Nickname “Furão” who also started with me as a young kid.
There is nothing Della Monica doesn’t know about jiu jitsu, another warrior and role model. I tell you, our team is growing so much we have so many good guys coming through. Mark my words this year we will dominate the Belo Horizonte circuit, and soon we will expand from there, everyone will be talking about caveirinha Jiu Jitsu Family.
Another thing we wanted to ask was that story about Mcgregor. About you changing your name?
I believe in Rafael 100%. He is too focused. I think Aldo lost his mind a bit and didn’t strategize properly, his strategy was based on rage. Dos anjos is not like this, he is a calculated and focused person, he does not play the anger game or react to Conor’s provocative comments.
Rafael will genuinely beat him up, for sure. Like I said, he will make him pay for his lack of respect for Brazilians and for jiu jitsu. I said it before, if Rafael doesn’t win I will change my name to Maria for 30 days.