It is September 12. There are 14 days to go till ADCC 2009. In Rio de Janeiro, Leonardo Vieira is at the Brazilian Team Nationals leading Checkmat, the team he put together two years ago with brother Ricardo, when both left Brasa.
The two-time under 66kg champion spent the last week training in Rio de Janeiro, but returns to Sao Paulo for the final week of training before the trip. In between his students’ disputes, Leo had the following chat with GRACIEMAG.com ADCC 2009 blog.
Blog: How has your preparation for the ADCC 2009 been going?
Leo Vieira: I’m training with my students in Sao Paulo and spent this week in Rio, training with my brother. Today I turn 33, my time is divided between my kids, leading the team and training, but I have a phenomenal team that supports me all the way.
Blog: Your toughest adversaries in the category have been competing all the time while you haven’t competed since 2007. Do you feel that will hinder you?
Leo: I’m an athlete and I manage to compete well even if I’m not coming off a series of competitions. I’ve been through that before.
Blog: Still on the topic of your opponents, the under 66kg category unites such names as Rani Yahya, Cobrinha, Rafael Mendes, among others. Have you been practicing specific strategies for each of them?
Leo: My strategy against all adversaries is to feel comfortable in the match. I see each adversary as being 15 opportunities for defeat. I think the category will be just as tough as the other ones.
Blog: In 2007 you lost in the final to Rani Yahya, after having beat him in 2005. Will this year be the tie-breaker?
Leo: My loss to Rani caused me to reassess my reasons for competing. In 2007, I was lagging in the ADCC. I lagged in my first matches, won, but when I made it to the final I couldn’t manage to win. The problem was all about motivation. When I started Jiu-Jitsu, my motivation was to move up in belts to get to black. When I made it there, my motivation was to become world champion, which I managed to do too. When I made it to ADCC 2007 I couldn’t see any motivation for being there. That’s why I ate wrong, trained wrong and fought wrong. The loss made me see how I didn’t have to fight just for me, but for my team, for those who follow me, to leave a legacy.
Blog: Looking back, what was your greatest moment in the ADCC? The one you hold dearest to you?
Leo: A lot of folks only think of wins, but to me my greatest moment was my match with Mark Kerr, in 2000. I like to talk about that match, if just to remind people how it went. A lot of people think it was a supermatch, or the final of the absolute. Truth is, it was the first match of the absolute that year. To me, that match marked the way I fight. I lost, but only by a penalty point, because they said I backed away.
Blog: You’ve been disputing the ADCC since 2000. Who was the athlete to impress you most all these years?
Leo: The one to most impress me was Marcelo Garcia. He left the tryouts he lost in 2003 to submit everyone and maintain the title to this day.
What about you? Do you feel Leo can take a third ADCC title? Leave your comment.