Interview with Ze Mario Esfiha

Esfiha is a BJJ black bet under Roberto Traven and a legit badass.Now living in Ontario,Canada, Esfiha takes some time out to tell a little bit about himself here in this interview.

Alot of jiu-jitsu guys in Brazil have some pretty unique names. Elvis,Jacare,Bomba,Cabecao,Pecanha,casca-grossa, etc…So when I heard of an alliance black belt named “Esfiha” I figured this big guy must have been a legit badass. At the time my portuguese was limited and I had no clue that Esfiha is the name of an Arabic food commonly eaten in Brazil.

It turns out Jose Mario MacCord Queiroga, got the nickname Esfiha after a training partner was poking fun at his appetite of the brazilian food when Jose was eating Esfihas all day rather than training at the academy.

Esfiha is a BJJ black bet under Roberto Traven and a legit badass.Now living in Ontario,Canada, Esfiha takes some time out to tell a little bit about himself here in this interview.

BALEIA:Tell the OTM readres a little bit abot yourself and whove you trained with.

ESFIHA: I trained with alot of diferent guys… I first started to train with Alvarro Barreto and Sylvio Bering at the academia CORPO QUATRO in copacabana.Than Roberto Traven”jacare black belt” came to start to teach there too and together with Sylvio gave me my blue belt sometime aroud 91, to be honest I wish I remenber the right day but I dont…. then what hapend was sylvio had to move to Sao Paulo and from that day on I became manly Travens student !

Then together with Alexandre Paiva” Jacare black belt” Traven opened the old STRIKE. There was the place where I really learned most stuff that I know today…

We had a sister acadamy at the time called Master, where Romero Jacare was teaching still… at Strike we hade guys like Muzio de Angelis, Dennis Machado, Orlandivo Junior, Ricardo”ratao” Pereira, Marcio Figueiredo , Haroldo”Cabelinho”Bunn, Otavio”Ratinho” Couto , coulple kids at the time like… Leo Leite, Gabriel Pensador, Alexandre Street, , Terere and many others… funny days when Terere was afraid to train with me… I remenber…Traven usued to say: “Terere go with Esfiha!!!” and Terere -would say: “Do i realy have too!?!??!?”ahhahahhahha that was funny… I dont really know what Leo Leites father gave to him to eat becouse at the time he wasnt that strong!!!

At Master Academy we had guys like Jacare Cavalcante, Fabio Gurgel, Fernado Gurgel, Jamelao, Leo Vieira, Ricardo Vieira, Leandro Vieira, Felipe Costa, Rodrigo Cumprido, Rony Cardozo, Peck, Felipe Zicro, Roger Patrik, Marcelo Tello, Sarruco…. and many more…

Thats was even before Alliance… so you guys imagine that almost avery saturday we would get together to train!!!! We some times would have more then 50 guys on the mats in once in all diferents weights, sizes and belts. Beside the great knowledge that I absorbed then, that was also the bests years of my life… I made friends there that I am never gonna forget!!!! That is what jiu jitsu gives to you!!! Family!!! But just like any family we also fight sometimes!!!! ahahhahhahhaha

So I was with Traven from the blue to balck belt… In the mean time alot things hapend… I tought at Strike and at Leo Castello Brancos academy for a long time… I used to teach at 7 in the morning at Castellos shool, take a bus to Strike and teach from 10:30 to 12:00 and from 16:00 till 21:30… that was how much time I spent on the matts for about 5, 6 years… Tham as a brown and black belt another 3, 4 years until I started to travel aroud!

First I went to finland in 2000 just after I won the world championships together with Traven and Castello… that tournamemt I beat alot of guys guys such as Rigan Machado who had beat me in Abu Dabhi…

In Finland was my first contact with some thing you guys (Canadians) grew up with!!!! snow!!!! jesus man, that was bad!!!! my whole life I was used to go from training to the beach…what a life!!!! sometimes I ask myself how come I could give up on that …

Before I moved to Canada I lived in Houston,Texas for a while but other than my students people were not freindly like here…. so 1 day, Rodrigo Cumprido, Leo Vieira, Terere and I, all went to fight the Pro-Aams in North Carolina and thats where I met Rick “BALEIA” Amendolia, who was super nice with me all the time…we stayed toghether in the same house… And after that, he and Jeff Joslin made arrangements for me to come here to stay for maybe 3 months… I liked it here so much that I stayed for almost one year teching at Jeffs Academy….

During which time I met Vince Mattei who is today my partner and best freind here!!! He used to drive from St. Catherines to Hamilton to train with me… So Vince and I became good friends, and he later brought me back from Brazil to Canada to teach permanently..

the funny part was I met vince before 1 day in rio in some night club!!!! He was there with a freind of mine Marcio “Sadam” Canario… so he introduced us normaly and thats was it, ultill one day at Joslins when I asked vince if he ever went to brazil …vince said yes and he was with this guy Sadam…then i told him: wait a minute I met you before…of course he didnt remenber because I remenber that night Sadan told me he was with a canadian guy who was “having to much fun”, you guys should seen his eyes..I think he had to much of that brazilian bear!!! hahhahahhah. What a small world!!!

BALEIA:Whats is like being a carioca from Rio living in Canada?

ESFIHA: It hasnt been easy I dont have my family, freinds and that quality of traing I used to have. But I thought Canada would be a good place for me to live… I have good freinds here and a jiu jitsu community that is growing very fast!!!! New black belts from canada, black belts from brazil…. guys who decide to take jiu jitsu as their main sport and even as a carreer. Today here you dont have to travel all over the place anymore or learn from tapes like before!!! Today all over Canada you can find a lot of diferent good places to train hard and with a good quality of jiu jitsu.

BALEIA:What do you think the Canadian grappling scene has to do to cathc up with the rest of the world and Brazill?

ESFIHA: Well, through tournaments such as the Ontario Submission Wrestling Invitational, The Joslins Canadian Open, The Showndown Tournament , we can show everyone here and all over the word how the brazilian jiu jitsu lerned hear in canada is serius just like everywhere else!!!

BALEIA:Tell the OTM readres about your last superfight with Rodrigo Munduruca at the last Ontario Submission Wrestling Invitational.

ESFIHA:My last fight with Munduruca at the O.S.W. wasnt what I was looking for at all …not that way… I know Munduruca a long from rio when he used to work in the very frist hunter store and I was 1 of the first fighters who had a hunter sponsorship… so he is a good freind and a person who is being here alot more then I have and I have alot of repect for him…(Rodrigo Munduruca injured his knee only 45 seconds into the match Sunday December 5th 2004)

BALEIA:What do you think is the main difference between here and Rio?

ESFIHA:Well I think the main diference betwen here and rio in jiu jitsu is just numbers… number of teammates you have to train with.. I strongly believe if the competitors here had more exchange in training like in brazil, everyone would improve alot more and alot faster…I also believe that everyone should pick your team and stick with this flag…but I also belive that by visiting a friends club you can get alot out of this too. Just like I have being for a example in a judo classes with Vitor Shaolin, Saulo Ribeiro and many others from diferent teams. You can only win with these kind of experiences…

I also think we should and we could do alot beter in terms of numbers of tournamnets… Its a priority for any athlete in any sport to put him self in as manys competitions that he can… More than physicaly, in my view, mentally you can only get better with more experience in competitions. We all should be on the same page and have more new tournaments during the year….this way as an atlhete you could know in advance which competitions yo wanna do!

BALEIA:You recently did some jiu-jitsu instructionals and they have been getting some good buzz around them. Tell us a ittle bit about them.

ESFIHA:My dvds were made for the white to the black belt!!! It ivolvs basics and great techiniques that could be used by anyone in a competition or in a saturday day of training with friends! It took me alot of energy to make as clear as possible for averyone!!! So I bet my belt that if you have a chance to see them, you wont regret it!!!

In cllosing I would like to thank Rick (BALEIA) for this opportunity and invite anybody who would like to visit my club in St Catherines, I am proud to say I always received everyone in my club with open arms. Niagara bjj doors are open for anybody who wants to come down for one day of class, one month or just to stop by to say hi. There I make sure its a extention of the same environment that I always had at home. You guys can check more at

All my family in rio and my freinds and studentshere who are my main things here in canada!!! Ze Mario Esfiha

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Riccardo Ammendolia