What ranks do you hold in martial arts and in which disciplines?
I received my black belt in Judo in 2001. I have a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am a Krav Maga instructor certified by Ran Nakash, former head of Krav Maga for the Israel Defense Forces. And I was world class Greco Roman Wrestler.
What are your accomplishments in these fields? Championships won?
Judo: In 2007 I won the toughest Judo Tournament in Brazil, called the “Brazil Trophy”. I was the Pan Am Judo champion. I beat World Cup Judo champion, Walter Santos, to become National Judo Champion in 2003. I was 6-time state champion in Judo, I won numerous other super fights and tournament championships.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: IBJJF Master 1 World Champion where I beat several famous grapplers. I am a two-time ADCC veteran and 2015 IBJJF New York Open no gi Black Belt Champion, adult division.
Wrestling: 7 times Brazilian national champion. Pan American Bronze medalist in Greco Roman Wrestling. I was the Olympic top contender for the 2008 games. World Beach Wrestling Bronze medal in 2008 in Bulgaria. I placed 10th in the Olympic Games Trials in 2008.
I have two pro MMA fights as well, one in Croatia and one here in the United States.
You had a very famous ADCC win over Jeff Munson, he is a legend of MMA and grappling, what was it like competing against such a competent and experienced fighter?
It was a great experience, it was amazing to grapple against a competitor of Jeff’s caliber. He had beaten many high level BJJ guys in the past and he had won the ADCC worlds two times. It was a huge win for my career.
Did you start training in BJJ, Judo, and Wrestling all at the same time, or did you start in one then branch out?
I started training Judo at 5 years old. I followed in my father’s footsteps, he was a very big name in Brazilian Judo at heavyweight. I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 16 years old. At 23 I began wrestling to help improve my Judo and add to my style, however I fell in love with wrestling and began competing all over the world. In 2001 I received my Judo black belt from master Jomar through the Rio De Janeiro and Brazilian Judo Federation. In 2009 I received my BJJ black belt from Master Amaury Bitetti.
In addition to your fantastic competition career you were a coach for some very famous fighters can you name some of them? You were also a coach on the UFC Brazil, what is your favorite memory of coaching?
I have a lot of memories from coaching. One that stands out was when I was cornering Minotauro Nogeuira with some other great coaches at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Minotauro beat Tim Sylvia to win the UFC heavyweight title. I attempted to jump in the cage carrying the Brazilian flag but was stopped and scolded. I thought I was going to get into trouble. Another great memory was spending 3 months in Croatia with Mirco Cro Cop, a legend of MMA. Febricio Werdum was in the camp as well. We prepared hard and went to Japan for the fight against Fedor. There were almost 100,000 people in the Tokyo Dom Stadium for that fight. There was an amazing energy in the stadium.
Another memory is coaching the Ultimate Fighter Show on Fuel and Globo I coached alongside Vitor Belfort, K1 legend Filho, Dorea, and of course Durinho, it was an amazing cast and a great experience.
You recently traveled to Israel to become a Krav Maga instructor, with all your experience in fighting certainly you must be competent to defend yourself, why did you decide to learn Krav Maga?
Yes, I have been training in Krav Maga for almost 5 years. I train directly under Ran Nakash, Itay Danenberg, and Idan Pundak. They are all veterans of the Israel Defense forces, working as Krav Maga instructors and counter terrorism operatives. Krav Maga is a very street-wise self defense program. I thought it had a lot I could add to my game, especially its approach to dealing with weapons like the knife, stick, and pistol. These were lacking in my self defense skill set. It also heightens my awareness that you will be facing situations that you will not be facing in a ring or on the mat. 3 or 5 people against one! My biggest concern is to learn things that will help my students, especially women who do not have the advantage of being my size. Today this kind of training is my passion!
Do you think grapplers over estimate how effective they will be in a “street fight”?
Grappling is very important in some self defense scenarios. However, you always need to be aware of the environment around you when you are defending yourself or someone else. In some situations, I believe you can, and you even must grapple, for instance if someone breaks into your house and you catch them in your garage and there is no 3rd person, just the two of you. In such a case grappling could be ideal, but you still need to be aware! However, in a public place, like an apartment complex or at a mall, you must be very careful spending too much time grappling, even in positions like the mount. We have seen cases of grapplers being attacked there and even shot! Grappling is a great tool, but you must always bring reality to your training and don’t focus on points or advantage. You must do all of it, the sport, and the reality-based grappling.
What are your plans now for teaching? Will you continue to teach competitors, self-defense, or will you do both?
I have many big plans for Xpert Fighting, we will be developing new training, offering seminars, etc.… Here in the U.S. I work for X3 sports in Atlanta and I have been teaching lots of self defense seminars, private lessons, for women, for police and military as well. I recently did two great DVD’s for BJJ Super Deals and Fanatic Self Defense, the first was “The Lazy Closed Guard” and the second was “Destroy First, Ask Questions Later”. They are both selling very well! I am also coaching, helping an up and coming MMA fighter with a 9-3 record, but most of my time is spent teaching self-defense and Krav Maga besides my regular BJJ classes.
You can follow Rodrigo on his Instagram: rodrigodefensivetactics