Lovato and Rader prep for ADCC: “ADCC is the closest thing to MMA without throwing any punches at each other,” says Lovato

ADCC 2011 Preview: Rafael Lovato Jr. , Justin Rader, Xande Ribeiro and company wrap up final week of training before heading to ADCC in England

This week we spoke with student-teacher duo, jiu-jitsu world champions and ADCC 2011 competitors, Justin Rader and Rafael Lovato Jr. on their preparations for ADCC! The two have also been preparing for the competition with Lovato’s longtime training partner, Xande Ribeiro.

"ADCC is the most grueling submission grappling tournament in the world… We have prepared with our diet, weight, studying the rules, our training, and conditioning– and we are ready" -Lovato Jr.

See more from our interview with these two record-breaking competitors below:


OTM: Lovato, you’ve had a good last year in no-gi competitions, winning both the No-Gi Worlds last year and Abu Dhabi World Pro Championships in Spring. This must give you a lot of confidence coming into ADCC, how do you feel compared to your last two times at the competition?

Lovato: Right now I am more mature, I have even more experience. My first time at ADCC was in 2007. I did pretty well, I lost to Damian (Maia) in the second round and he went on to win. Then, in 2009, I was much more comfortable and ready for that kind of tournament. I mean you hear about it for years, you always hear about ADCC and dream about competing in it. The first time I competed I was nervous and the second time I was much more comfortable and accustomed to the rules. I did better in 2009, than how I did in 2007, I lost to Braulio Estima in the semi-finals. And Estima later went on to win my division and win the entire championship. So both times I lost to the guys that won.

This time I know exactly what to expect and what I need to do.

OTM: Going back to the rules, what would you say is your biggest adjustment you have to make when it comes to the specific rules at ADCC?

Lovato: With ADCC, it is really hard to score points. The first half of the match, you can’t even score points, you can only score in the second half—which I think is actually really cool because it plays into my game and I really like the submission. I’m more of a submission guy than a point player. From the second half on, its really hard to score.

For example, to earn a takedown, you have to get the person to their back. The way things are scored are usually by a back-take, less so with takedowns and passing.

Also, its very grueling and physical.

OTM: Are there any rule changes for 2011?

Lovato: The biggest rule change from 2009 is regarding weigh-ins. It used to be you just weighed in the day before and that was it for the whole weekend, so you really only had to make weight for 5 minutes.

Now you have to weigh in the day before, the first day of competition and the finals day.  You have to make weight every day of the competion.

The division are very large, some being 20 lb difference in divisions. Because I didn’t have a division that was right at my normal weight, I had to lose about 15-17 lbs for the competition, which has been an 8-week process. I am doing good, I woke up on weight this morning and I am feeling very strong. My student, Justin Rader, who is competing, has been preparing his weight as well.

OTM: ADCC grants invitations as well as holds trials for the championship.  When did you both receive your invitation?

Lovato:  I was invited pretty early, back in June. Rader though, he took the last spot in his category. He had a bit of a harder road to get into the event, even though we both felt he deserved a spot early on and one of the top picks, but sometimes you have to lobby for your spot. So what Rader did is went to Vegas and put on a great performance at Grappler’s Quest in mid July and defeated Jeff Glover, so that made a big statement. Then Rader received his invitation to ADCC a few days later. Before that I felt it was getting down to the wire in regards to time, but I knew deep down they were going to invite him and get him in there.

OTM: You have been competing on a high level for a long time and most of the men in your division you have faced before. Is there anyone in your bracket that will be a new opponent for you?

Lovato: I have gone against most everyone in my division, but there are a couple I have not. The main person I have not had a match with yet is Pablo Popovich, he has normally fought in the weight class below me, but due to these big weight classes, he is now in my division at this event. He is a very good fighter, he has a very difficult game that is hard to score against. There are so many guys in my division and I know that I will not have an easy match. I have studied everyone, taken each opponent very seriously and know what I need to do against each one. I know it won’t be an easy match against anyone and I am not taking it lightly.

OTM: Your friend and main training partner, Xande Ribeiro is also competing in the event in the -98.9kg division. Has he been part of your training camp? Who else are you training with in preparation?

Lovato:  Yes, he is here in Oklahoma City with me for a one-week training camp. I also have another solid black belt here with us, Matt Jubera (Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt), also my European friend and training partner, brown belt Johannes Wieth (Germany), he is a very tough brown belt who is good at no-gi, so I have some very good heavyweights I’ve been training with here along with Rader and the rest of my students here.

I have another student who is also competing at ADCC, James Puopolo, who won the North American trials and will be competing in Xande’s division (-98.9.kg)

With my two students, Xande and myself, we have a good group of us all there together preparing and competing. Johannes will also be flying in to coach us. Minus a few bumps and bruises, our training camp has been great!

OTM: Hopefully Xande and Puopolo don’t get put on the same side of the bracket…

Lovato: I hope they don’t meet in first round. But since it’s Puopolo’s first time, maybe he won’t get as good of a bracket, but he is seizing this opportunity no matter the scenario of a teammate in there.

OTM: Rader, you are in an exciting division with many top no-gi grapplers. How do you feel about your division and who you will be potentially facing?

Rader: There is a lot of talent in my division and I feel very fortunate. I have faced most of them before so I have a really good idea about what to expect. There are a few names in there I have not had the opportunity to face before, but I’ve had ample opportunity to watch, such as Bruno Frazzato who I have not fought no-gi, but have fought in the gi. Then there is Robson Moura is another one that I’ve been able to watch over the years, but most I’ve fought a number of times.

I’ve fought Rafael Mendes many times in the past. I’ve studied my past matches with him and others and made adjustments. I feel ready for anyone and everybody in my division. I feel really good about where I am at going in.

Lovato: I wanted to add that Rader has been undefeated in no-gi since 2009. His last defeat was at the last ADCC in 2009.  He’s really come into his own in the last couple years. At his first time at ADCC he was a brown belt and now he’s more mature and a black belt. I am very excited for him to compete at this ADCC. I feel like we have a good chance to have a re-make of what we made happen at No-Gi Worlds in 2011 with a double win for the two of us.

I don’t know if there has ever been a student-teacher duo who have competed at ADCC, but we are doing that and we are looking to both win too.

OTM: How have you grown since your first time at ADCC 2009, when you were a brown belt?

Rader:  Last time I found out much later that I was going to the event—about 5 weeks to train. I felt good last time, the weigh in rules were different, so this time I was happier to get an invitation sooner to prepare for that.

The first time went well, I ended up facing Baret Yoshida in the first round, a two-time finalist at ADCC. When I saw I was going to face him, I was excited and ready. I took him down twice and passed his guard twice. Then I met up with Rafael Mendes in 2nd round, our second time fighting no-gi, he caught me in a slick anaconda choke from my deep half guard. I’ve studied and analyzed that match. I’ve learned from that match and now put that position into my own game.

OTM: Any surprises in your division?

Rader: Not really, there are mostly familiar faces. The only surprise is that Leo ‘Leozinho’ Veiera decided to move up a division, so he’ll be with Marcelo Garcia and others (76.9kg).

OTM: Who do you see as the biggest threat in division?

Rader: Most guys in division have a strong no-gi pedigree. I think I matchup well with everyone in my division because of my wrestling. I really do believe my wrestling does give me an advantage and a heads up. I am going to use it in every match and to the best of my ability.

OTM: Aside from being confident in the rules and knowing your opponents well, what have you also focused on improving for this competition?

Lovato: Definitely strength and conditioning.

I have competed in every jiujitsu/grappling event that there is. You have to say that ADCC is by far, the most physical and grueling competition that there is. You have to be in incredible shape. With the wrestling and it being so hard to score points, it’s very physical, there is often overtime, the finals are 20 minutes alone—and that is without overtime. Last ADCC, at the finals “Cobrinha” and Mendes went for 40 minutes. It’s not rare to see a match go at least 20-30 minutes.

Last ADCC, I had my first overtime at 13-14 minutes. So a 15-20 minute match is not unlikely.  Along with weight and length of matches, strength and conditioning is so important in order not to get worn down.

Then there the rules in it eself that allow slamming and that leg attacks are legal. You see guys getting hurt all the time at this competition just because of how physically grueling it is. I unfortunately got hurt last time.

There is a lot of money on the line and people don’t want to tap. The submissions go in quick and hard. In my opinion ADCC is the closest thing to MMA without throwing any punches at each other.

OTM: When do you head out for England? What does your last week of training look like?

Lovato: The week prior to event is when we tone down and rest (week of Sept 12) and then in the week of is the mental element of feeling calmed down and focused, while making sure our weight is on. We arrive in Birmingham on Wednesday the 21st. Everyone is flying in on Thursday, but I wanted an extra day to get accustomed to time change.

I am not exactly sure where we can drill the day before—so if anyone reads this and will let us stop by their school, we’d love to come down and drill somewhere. If we can’t do that, we’ll drill in the hotel room and sweat a little!

OTM: Thank you Lovato and Rader for your time. Anything you want to add or sponsors you’d like to thank?

Lovato: I want to thank our sponsors On the Mat and Lucky Gi. Martial Arts Recovery, which is our recovery supplement we use and really like, our conditioning coach, Tirey’s Training, who has been a huge asset for us in our preparation, and 1914 BJJ Kimonos.

Lovato’s article on how Martial Arts Recovery has helped his training recovery: http://www.onthemat.com/blogs-posts/martial-arts-recovery-supplement-testimonial-rafael-lovato-jr

Lovato and Rader can be found online at:


Lovato’s Facebook Page

Twitter: @LovatoBJJ

Justin Rader’s Facebook Page

Twitter: @DarthRader86



















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Christie Sullivan