The following is a list of people of world class athletes (competitive at the adult level) that I’ve trained with (we’re talking more than a few rolls) and what I’ve learned from them. Like most of us I don’t train at a famous BJJ gym, but I’ve trained with some really good guys and have recently been reflecting upon what I’ve learned from them.
- Lucas Lepri – Grip Fighting and Precision
Lucas was kind enough to let me join his PamAm camp this year. First and foremost, as you might imagine since no one has scored a single point on him at the world class level for over a year now, training with Lucas feels kind of embarrassing. I’ve been a grappler for most of my life and I couldn’t muster a single positive movement against him. Not once did I establish or maintain any type of grip during any of our rolls. It reminded me of the importance of grip fighting at the highest level, too often we just lazily begin our rolls in our day-to-day training. He who wins the grips, controls the fight. Another thing I noticed was his precision. He often taught movements with so much detail that despite my experience, I still had a hard time replicating. He’s using every single part of his body to control every single part of his opponents. Most of us are barely able to master the gross motor aspects of many of our techniques.
Lucas is the best. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Equalizer,” he’s in the future. He’s the Lebron James of Jiu Jitsu. His technique is perfect. Me, a lifelong athlete, a gymnast at 4, a wrestler at 12, 8 years of BJJ, could only desperately cling to a single leg in deep half for a moment, else I might hurt myself.
2. Murilo Santana- Pressure
Few people can say they’ve folding passed Felipe Pena, but Murilo has (he even armbarred him back in the day). Murilo is one of the only true pressure passers left and is just as good gi as he is nogi (a rarity these days). Before Murilo I thought I had felt pressure, I hadn’t. He steamrolled me effortlessly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of 300+ pounders try to crush me, but nothing, and I repeat nothin,g has felt like Murilo. His pressure is precise. The only thing that’s saved some of the best people from his passing are lapel grips – something to keep in mind if you’re facing a good pressure passer. I wish I could explain the details of his perfect over-under, but you’ll have to hit up one of his seminars, it’s something you have to feel. A large part of my passing came from his wisdom inasmuch as avoiding the open guard and controlling the hips.
3. Gilson Nunes – Speed and Flexibility
If you don’t follow sport BJJ closely, you may not have heard of him before, but this year he BARELY lost to Cobrinha at worlds- it was a referee’s decision. (I think he won the match, but if you’re going to win an IBJJF match against Cobrinha, you have to win BIG TIME) He’s beat a Miyao, Moizinho, and Doerderlein. Gilson is the epitome of the modern game. He’s lightning fast and can fold his body into a rubberband ball. I saw this guy hold his own against an x-NFL player twice his size. As a short BJJ player, having a solid open guard game isn’t typically a priority, but he makes me strive for an impassable guard, something unachievable without a great deal of flexibility and something many BJJ players don’t work on. I was able to last a good while against Gilson, and sometimes I even made it entire rolls without getting subbed 🙂
4. Helton José Junior – Agression
If you’ve never rolled with a Ciscero Costha guy before, you’re in for a treat if/when you do. I had never experienced this level of aggression. Helton Junior is a monster that has beaten a few of Marcelo’s guys, and quite recently barely lost to Pena. To be honest, rolling with Helton was a big confidence booster for me. As a wrestler I do much better with giants that insist on playing top than I do against 7 foot tall spider lapel players. If I can force bigger guys to play bottom, then it’s usually their secondary game. I held my own against Helton in a good number of rolls. Still, the whole time it felt like he was trying to kill my whole family – crossfaces so hard it felt like he was trying to separate my jaw from my head, going for subs without remorse, etc It was kind of terrifying actually. I don’t think I could typically roll like that in our school (I don’t think anyone would continue to roll with me). But, it goes to show you why Cicero’s team does so well, few people are more fierce.
5. Dominique Bell- Hard Work and Determination
Before moving to Atos, I rolled with Dom from time to time at an open mat I started. He was super competitive then, but still a mere mortal. Once he moved out to Atos, he won Worlds after about 6 months of training. It’s just insane the amount of growth he had with pure hard work. If you’ve ever seen an Atos training, where they’re pumping out pushups in between rolls, you know you’re not working as hard as you could.
So work harder.