Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida Interview

In the following, Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida, a Gracie Barra Black Belt, shares with us his training history, competition perspective, and future goals.

Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida Interview

In the following, Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida, a Gracie Barra Black Belt, shares with us his training history, competition perspective, and future goals.

Training History

Kevin Howell: Can you introduce the readership to yourself, your training history, and how you became involved in BJJ?

Flavio Almeida: I come from a middle class Brazilian family formed by German and Portuguese immigrants that settled down in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. I was raised like any kid around, going to the beach, surfing, playing soccer, and climbing trees. It was not until my early teenage years that, under the influence of Bruce Lee movies that my interest shifted to martial arts. It was an interesting search: I remember going to Gracie Barra to learn about this jiu-jitsu thing that the already famous Gracie’s were so good at. However, the image of 30 big guys rolling on the mats with sweaty kimonos was not very attractive to me. That is how I started my martial arts training: doing karate, not jiu-jitsu. It was one year of dedication for two kids – me and my brother – this did not go very far. My brother switched to BJJ and convinced me to do the same. I was 13 and he was 16 years old.

Everyone was very supportive of our training; I remember my grandfather being so excited about our jiu-jitsu classes because he was a big fan of Grand Master Helio Gracie. He followed Helio’s fights on his AM radio including the 4 hour battle between Helio and Valdemar Santana.

Regarding my training history, I was lucky to be raised inside Gracie Barra. Over there, hard training wasn’t the exception but the rule. When the teen class was over, I used to go to the adult dojo to watch Renzo, Ralph, Roleta, Nino, Soca, Ryan, Feitosa and my brother training hard under the very strong supervision and leadership of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. I remember saying to myself, “I will be like them one day”. At this point, jiu-jitsu became the most important thing in my life. I made a pact with my parents that I could train as much as I wanted as long as I kept the good grades. My grades were great and I trained twice a day every day for the following 6 years.

Can you imagine that? As a kid, being molded by the teachings of Carlinhos and under the close attention of Marcio Feitosa? That is what I got. The man that I became has so much to do with it. Gracie Barra wasn’t just a jiu-jitsu academy, it was really a life school where I learned lessons that I carry in life.

KH: How did you get your nickname and what does it mean?

Flavio: I am the younger brother of the Big Dog, that’s all. Cachorrinho means little dog. My brother got this nick name because he used to be very bossy when he was younger. At that period there was a character on a TV Show that was bossy too. So, some of his friends started calling him “big dog”.

KH: What is the role that Renzo and your brother, Ricardo Almeida, have played in the development of your jiu-jitsu?

Flavio: My brother was my jiu-jitsu personal trainer and a great influence – a real role model in my life. Yes he taught me a lot of what I know, but also he guided me through my childhood and teenage years. When he moved to the US, I lost a great coach and motivator. His talent and great performances at tournaments were also very inspiring for me. In 1997, I came to the US to learn English and spend six months with him. It was then that I had the privilege of being so close to Master Renzo Gracie. His teachings were amazing. Whoever spends five minutes with Renzo knows what I am talking about. He not only brought my jiu-jitsu to another level, but made me understand the real meaning of being a jiu-jitsu practitioner.

On Competition and the Coming Pan-American and ADCC 2007 Events

KH: You are well known for having some titanic bouts against Margarida, could you please tell us about your view of these matches as well as some other great matches that you have had?

Flavio: Oh, that brings me good memories. These matches define for others the peak of my career. Maybe they are right, although I won only one out of four. He was a tough opponent that taught me great lessons. I learned a lot from the mistakes I made in those fights. Hopefully we will compete again in the future.

KH: Recently, you were invited to compete at the coming ADCC Championship; could you explain to us how this invitation came to be? How were you able to bypass the Trials process?

Flavio: I didn’t bypass the trials. Basically there are two ways of participating: upon invitation or through the trials. I didn’t have the opportunity to participate on the trials because I was leaving my old job and moving to the US and then I let the ADCC Organization know about my willingness to compete and they invited me.

KH: You will also be competing in the coming Pan American Tournament, why did you decide to compete again after your layoff from competition? Why did you decide to stop competing in the first place?

Flavio: I stopped competing because I was fully dedicating myself to my studies and business career. When I became a Black Belt I had to decide between my athletic career and my diploma in Economic Science at one of the most respected and difficult universities in Brazil: I choose the second. Back then, I had not realized how fulfilling being a Jiu-Jitsu instructor could be and how stressful a business life could be.

My brother helped me see the value of being a “Professor”. He is fully dedicating his life now to benefit as many people as possible through the teachings of BJJ. He made me realize that after so many years benefiting from this great art I should give it back. I understood the joy of teaching. It is a whole new endeavor. Each student is a challenge and if I do my job well all of them will become a Black Belt.

So why go back to the competition arena? Is there a better learning experience? Is there any better way to test my skills and bring out the best I have within? To continuously sharpen my jiu-jitsu I need to go out there and compete against the best. Besides all that, I just love being there. I love the adrenaline, the feeling, the tension, the struggle against the fatigue and the glory. Tournaments are for sure those things that we will remember and be remembered by when we die.

KH: Considering that you will be competing in two of the largest grappling tournaments, how are you preparing for both the gi tournament as well as the submission wrestling?

Flavio: Hard training. Technically, physically and mentally I am doing my best. At Gracie Barra America I have great resources: The teachings of Master Carlos Gracie, the orientation of Marcio Feitosa, and great training partners. I am also training wrestling with the kids of Santa Ana high-school.

KH: How do you prepare mentally?

Flavio: Everything is created twice my friend, first in an imaginary world and second in the real world. Through jiu-jitsu I have found that controlling your thoughts is indispensable for a peak performance. I never allow negative images come in my mind and always picture my self in optimum performance.

KH: Your brother and Martin Rooney are known for their physical preparation and cardio fitness, do you take a lot from their ways of preparation?

Flavio: Yes. Martin and my brother taught me the principles of a good physical preparation that they developed together. Since I moved to the US I gained 10 pounds of lean weight and I feel in great shape. I owe this to the lessons they taught me.

KH: Are you being coached in any sports outside of BJJ, such as wrestling, judo, weight training, or sambo?

Flavio: Not really. My wife, who is a Physical Trainer, is always supervising my routine and nutrition.

KH: Is there anyone that you are looking forward to competing against in either event?

Flavio: I have great respect and admiration for the champions of today: Marcelo Garcia, Xande, Jacare, Andre Galvao, Demian Maia, Rafael Lovato Jr., and many others are the best. Competing against them will be awesome.

KH: One last note regarding competition, do you believe it is necessary to compete to become a good black belt? What of those that do not have the competitive drive or find it unnecessary?

Flavio: That depends on how you define a “good black belt”. If you define it as a person who is able to perform a set of BJJ techniques and overcome his/her training partners or opponents reaching the level of a world champion, the answer is yes. Go there and compete as much as you can. However, if you adopt a more precise definition of a black belt as a person who masters not only BJJ techniques and skills, but develops a unique set of physical, social and mental skills – like discipline, respect, courage, reciprocity, determination, and humility – through the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, competition is not important at all and sometimes it could be counterproductive. Have you ever been to a fight club where people are not concerned with helping each other to get better, but are focusing only on defeating their training partners no matter what? The competitor’s mindset and attitude might do more harm than good if not under proper orientation and leadership.

I personally believe that we should not train to compete, we should train to get better not only as BJJ practitioners but as human beings. In other words, competition is not an end in itself it can be a mean to personal development.

Future Plans and Projects

KH: Has your brother’s success in MMA fueled the fire for you to fight as well?

Flavio: There are two things I need to do before I die: Surf in Jaws and fight a MMA Event. That’s how I see it. I will do it one day, just for the fun and the experience of it. I have no desire to become an MMA fighter. It would take so much from something that I just love to do and that I will do for the rest of my life: to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

KH: Can you tell us anything about your recent DVD project?

Flavio: Yes! Recently I did a seminar on Gracie Barra America and Marcio came up with the idea of doing a DVD based on it. It was the first time I got involved in a DVD project and it was very interesting. For a BJJ professor, to be able to reach maybe thousands of students that would be impossible to have physical contact is really great. Thanks to Marcio and the guys from Budovideos.

KH: Thank you for your time, good luck in your events!

Flavio: Thank You.

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Kevin Howell