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Words: Tom Bell  Picture: Josh Halvatzis 

Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues has spoken ahead of competing as an adult in the World Pro Jiu Jitsu Cup 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The Gracie Barra black belt has entered the Adult +94kg division alongside 19 other top level competitors, many of which are much younger than the 35-year-old, 5x European Champion – including the likes of Alexander Trans, Ricardo Evangelista, Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida and Luiz Panza.

But Lagarto has of course won World Pro gold before, in 2011, and believes his experience is something that the younger, more athletic competitors should not take lightly. Speaking exclusively from Abu Dhabi to Jiu Jitsu Style, Lagarto shared his thoughts ahead of competing in the Open Weight division and later his weight category:

“The open division starts on Thursday and I think this is the main goal, after this I will start to think about the division,’ says Lagarto. "As I was talking to my guys, everywhere you look there is a tough fight so I’m just looking forward to putting on my gi, getting warm, shaking hands and doing it – that’s what I’m here for.”

Alongside those already aforementioned, Lagarto could go on to face ADCC champion Roberto ‘Cyborg’ Abreu and could face stiff opposition in the likes of UK talents Antonio ‘Juniao’ Junior and Chris Bowe. That’s following the open weight, which will carry names like Davi Ramos, AJ Agazarm, Erbeth Santos, Faisal Al-Ketbi, Keenan Cornelius, Jackson Souza, Andre Galvao and more.

“I’m 35, Cyborg is in the same boat and we have a lot of experience and I believe in this, as does Cyborg and Galvao,” the Gracie Barra man explains. “I think we’re choosing to fight like this because we believe in what we have done. Man, I’ve been training for this tournament for 30 years, I started training when I was so young and now I don’t have a lot of things to worry about.

“What’s different in jiu jitsu with age is that I feel when a guy didn’t look after himself, when the guy has used drugs, when the guy has used steroids, when the guy drinks a lot and now he can’t keep the balance in life that he used to. I don’t feel any different to when I was twenty and I’ve never drank in my life, I’ve never taken any drugs and now I am 35 and it has paid off."

It is well documented that Lagarto has overcome more off-the-mat difficulties than no other top level competitor has faced, being diagnosed and then beating cancer in 2007. Within a month of his first chemotherapy session he had started to train again and then went on to win the Rio de Janeiro State Championships in 2008, followed by a European silver medal and absolute bronze in 2009.

Lagarto continues: “I can enjoy this healthy lifestyle, I still compete as an adult and I believe that if that is the will of God then this is going to be a good week for me.”

For the first time at black belt, Lagarto will also be competing alongside one of his students, UK homegrown talent Arya Esfandmaz who took silver as a brown belt at the World Pro Cup 2015 and gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Tour, Tokyo leg before earning his black belt. Esfandmaz has since arrived in style at black belt, recently closing out his bracket in Rome with Rodrigues at Super Heavyweight.

“It’s good to see your students getting to the top level, but the main goal to pass to my students is not to win tournaments but to learn on the journey and the process,” Lagarto continues. "What you learn every day is what is important. If you compete just to win medals, what is that, what difference is that bit of metal going to make in your life. I believe, my main thing like when I closed the bracket with Arya, is together we are creating a shared mindset, the game plan, the process to get there, to prepare for that moment – all that is priceless.

“It’s the joy like teaching a child to walk and suddenly they start to run. That’s the joy, it’s going through the hardship of showing them and teaching them and eventually they are running beside you in the battle. It’s beautiful and it’s priceless.”

April 20, 2016 — Jiu Jitsu Style