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Tami Monteiro, Making Hard Decisions Count

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Nicholas Meregali Instructionals

Born Thamires Arruda Monteiro but commonly known as “Tami” is one of the rising stars of jiu-jitsu. A native of the state of São Paulo, Brazil, Tami was initiated in the sport at the age of 16 (2014). At first, Monteiro’s intentions were solely altruistic as she came into a trial class in a show of support for her friend who was attracted to BJJ but was too shy to try it on her own. Luckily for us, the fans, that first experience ignited a spark that fuels Thamires to this day.

Grappling was immediately appealing to Tami. Having never competed in any sport prior to BJJ – although she practiced a few while growing up – once she did have her first taste of jiu-jitsu’s tournament scene Monteiro became borderline obsessed with fighting. As a blue belt the young athlete competed nearly every weekend across her home country and with a few visits to the United States for the World and Pans Championships.

During this period Thamires identified that a winning methodology could not be solely focussed on working your body. The mind was a muscle just as strong and just as powerful for competition, an attitude that displayed a precocious maturity and character only shared by special individuals:

I started training more professionally and working on my tournament mindset as a blue belt“, Monteiro explained, “but I think I only started being more recognized as one of the top players and reaping the benefits of that work as a purple belt“.

That maturity also led Tami out of her first academy in search of a more competitive training environment. The decision wasn’t an easy one to make at the time and forced Monteiro to leave her gym in less than amicable terms, nevertheless, the move was critical for her development as an athlete. Under the guidance of Leandro Lo at the New School Brotherhood, Thamires earned her first international medal. A 2nd place at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) 2017 Pan American No-Gi Championships and consequential purple belt rank.

Continuing to explore the range of options that best suited her ambitions, during 2018 Tami Monteiro spent 6 months in San Diego, California, training at the Atos team headquarters. The experience had a profound effect on the young Brazilian, who set her sights on a more permanent move to the United States:

I had been coming to the US since I was a blue belt in order to compete at the Pan and Worlds, it made sense for me to move here as this is where the bigger teams are and where the two biggest tournaments take place, but the decision came naturally. After those 6 months I spent in San Diego [at Atos], I returned to Brazil with my husband [fiancee at the time, BJJ black belt Jackson Douglas] and we were adamant that we wanted to build a future in America.

Although connected to Atos HQ through her previous experience, her better half, Jackson Douglas, was invited to be part of Lucas Leite’s Checkmat camp in La Habra, California. The invite changed her plans:

What led me to Checkmat was my husband. At the time we were engaged and he was offered a position in La Habra. It wasn’t going to be easy for me to train in San Diego and him in La Habra, which is about 150 kms [92 miles] away. We decided that wherever we went, we had to be together. When I visited Checkmat I was so well received by Lucas [Leite] and had a chance to see how much I could evolve here, this ultimately made me stay“, Tami explained about her choice.

In late 2020, once the forced pandemic competitive hiatus cleared, Tami Monteiro was able to prove her worth and the trust coach Lucas had placed in her with a gold medal at the IBJJF Pan American Championships (gi), a victory that earned her the brown belt rank from coach Lucas. The good form was maintained with another gold medal at the American Nationals in the absolute division (no-gi) and continued this year with silver at the No-Gi Pans and gold at the No-Gi World Championships, her best competitive year thus far, and we still have the World Championships (gi) ahead next month.

At 23 years of age, Thamires Monteiro is rapidly establishing herself as one of the biggest stars in the brown belt division. If you haven’t seen Tami in action yet, be sure to check her out at next month’s Mundial event.

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