As soon as he hit black belt division, almost three years ago, Gutemberg Pereira was spotted as one of the main challengers in the super-heavyweight category, a status he has upheld with the competitive results to back it up and a mat-flair that warranted a sizeable following.
The momentum gathered in 2018, “Berg’s” first attempt at the IBJJF Pan and World Championship gold, carried up until the 2019 Worlds event, back in May, and came to a halt during the second half of the year. Since then a lot has happened with the Bahia native’s career, from a break from the tournament scene, a return to his Brazilian roots at the famous Cachanga – GFT headquarters, the end of Pereira’s collaboration with Dante Leon at the GFT Toledo project, injuries, and now the outbreak of COVID-19. All these instances made for a perfect excuse to get in contact with Gutemberg.
“Last year I had told myself I was going to slow down with the competitions after the World Championship, to focus on the gym,” said Gutemberg to BJJ Heroes in March 2020. “At the time I was still coaching at GFT Toledo and had plans to concentrate on the team. I did just a couple of super fights and unfortunately, in one of those matches, I dislocated my arm. That took a long time to heal“.
Although severe, the injury was not the reason behind Pereira’s recent return to Brazil. That came from his break with the management of GF Team – Toledo at the end of 2019, a grappling program he led and helped develop from the ground up over the past 5 years. Without disclosing the details of the ordeal, Gutemberg did address the elephant in the room – “The goals of that program were very positive, but as in many businesses, there were diverging ideas between two people“. In an effort to end the topic on a positive note, Berg explained that he was “not here to point fingers or badmouth anyone. This clash of ideas had me moving back to Brazil“.
Coming back to Brazil made sense, a return to the gym that helped propel Gutemberg into the top tier of grapplers, however, a lot has changed in GF Team’s headquarters. The team’s head coach is no longer Master Julio Cesar – who has since moved to California, and most of Pereira’s former training partners have also moved to other gyms and locations, namely Patrick Gaudio, Victor Honório, Max Gimenis, Rodolfo Vieira, Jaime Canuto, etc. So how has the Pereira adapted to this new environment?
“I am loving it, I really missed this. I am having a lot of fun and jiu-jitsu is also evolving here. People are more open-minded about training than they were in the past and this makes me very happy.” when it comes to the quality of training, Gutemberg seems well supported by playing the same winning recipe used by his predecessors in the team: “There will always be tough sparring at the headquarters. There’s always 10-15 killer purple and brown belts out there to get you. It was the same during Rodolfo [Vieira’s] era. He didn’t have a black belt army to train with. Maybe 4 or 5 solid blacks, then there was an army of colored belts to train. Back in those days, I was a blue belt. There was Max [Gimenis] in blue, also Patrick Gaudio, [Vitor] Honório, Jaime [Canuto] and Igor [Silva] who would come and visit regularly, Maurício [Oliveira]. There was a whole army of blues and purples that were his training“. This tried and tested system remains, says Pereira: “Today is the same. There are plenty of purple and brown belts growing here, and also several old school black belts that give me a lot of training, I won’t name names as there are too many to mention, and I will end up forgetting someone”
With training underway, every grappling fan will be eager to see Berg back on the competition scene, after the COVID-19 outbreak is under control, but the future is still too uncertain for the young athlete – “This was my first week of quarantine, everything is canceled until June. I am taking this time to heal my injuries and rest. I was living at the headquarters with the rest of the sponsored team, but we are moving to a house now, so I am keeping busy with that. As soon as we reopen training I am coming back with everything I’ve got.”
Although the current global situation is one of distress and hardship, one can only play with the cards on the table, and Gutemberg seems to be doing just that: “I am transitioning. Happy to be in Brazil, but I also screening every available outcome and the range of possibilities at my reach.“