Interview with top lightweight BJJ fighter and Nova Uniao superstar, Leonardo Santos.Denis Martins: You are in Canada nowadays, is it true that you want to live in Canada forever?
Leonardo Santos: Well, my brother (Wagney Fabiano) is going to open other academy here in Canada and then there is a chance for myself to keep me here to support him with the classes. Nothing is 100% sure I will stay here, I think about what will be better for me.
Denis Martins: Have you adapted yourself well in Canada?
Leonardo Santos: I am a very calm guy. I think I am a person of easy adaptation. I feel myself very-well living here. The only bad thing here is the cold, I am not used to it since I am from Rio de Janeiro.
Denis Martins: You had visa denied a lot of times before the first time you went to Canada, right?
Leonardo Santos: Yes, this was the famous “you are not capable to go inside our country”. It made me mad, I tried twice and I did not get it. Everything is nice now and every time I comeback from Brazil to Canada, they extend a red-carpet for me(laughs).
Denis Martins: What do you miss more from Brazil?
Leonardo Santos: I miss my family, my friends, and the Brazilian food. I love Brazilian food, and mainly my mother’s food.
Denis Martins: Are you getting good trainings in Canada?
Leonardo Santos: I miss it from Brazil too; I had excellent training sessions in Brazil while in Canada due to the beginning of our job, I do not. But I know that the job which is being done here will render good fighters soon. I try to take advantage of some good training sessions here in Wrestling and Boxing, but the ground sessions we are still developing.
Denis Martins: What changed in your career’s plan since you moved to Canada?
Leonardo Santos: I still have will of fighting MMA again, but my gi’s career is going very-well. If I keep myself here, I will try to fight MMA soon, but if I comeback to Brazil I will fight only with gi. I still do not see advantages of make a transition from gi competitions to MMA ones.
Denis Martins: Three of your Brazilian teammates had different results in last two months. While Bruno Bastos won several submission tournaments, Eduardo Pessoa and Jose Aldo Jr lost their more important matches (Pessoa in submission and Aldo Jr in MMA). How did you see these results from Canada?
Leonardo Santos: I was very-sad by Aldo Jr’s and Pessoa’s situation, but it only happens with those who go to fight anyone. These are risks that a fighter has into his career. I am sure that this fact will not harm their career and they will take lessons and will become more experienced fighters. Bastos is a huge friend of mine and he has trained a lot. He won all submission tournaments this year and the 5th Brasileiro de Submission Cyclone was his most important, I guess. I hope he keeps this pace and wins more and more. I am here rooting for him.
Denis Martins: You have not lost a BJJ competition since 2000. Is still a challenge for you the BJJ’s competitions?
Leonardo Santos: I fought everything I could, and I won. It is hard to keep myself in good shape and beating all opponents. In some period of our career, we want to change, to make something different. But I am passionate for the BJJ’s competitions and while Ihave excitement to do it, I will. I know one day I will lose a fight, but I know I did several things for this sport(BJJ), and when I stop to think about, I am still happy, because I am a young guy yet.
Denis Martins: You are an unanswerable BJJ champion, and champions do not choose opponents. But is there anyone would you like to fight?
Leonardo Santos: I think that in the position I am right-now, I only have to train hard and stay ready to face anyone. I never chose and I will not choose opponents, it was always like that, I will not change. When I go to a competition it is because I am ready to face anyone who stays in my front. I can tell for you that I want to fight in the absolute once in my career. This is a doubt for me to see how I would perform against heavier fighters such as Roger Gracie, Xande Ribeiro and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
Denis Martins: Since CBJJO created Copa do Mundo, you have not fought Mundials. Do not you have any desire to fighting Mundial(CBJJJ) nowadays?
Leonardo Santos: This is a serious stuff. We see a possibility of fighting Mundial again, because this is an exciting tournament to compete. But I guess if I make it, I will be regressing in what I always defended for me.
Denis Martins: And what did you always defend?
Leonardo Santos: Fighting for money prizes; I always dreamed of fighting and living from the money I would acquire with it. The black-belts can not fight for free, just for medals or trophies. This is not the visions that I have if you want to be a professional fighter. I think that to fight for free is part of my past.
Denis Martins: In your opinion why do not you get the same success of BJJ into submission events?
Leonardo Santos: If you meant that this success is to be a ADCC champion, well I think I have the why of it. I still did not discover what is lacking for my game when I fight submission. I do not know if I have to train more without gi, I do not know. I see that fans and insiders insist on comparing my BJJ’s career with my submission one, and I do not think it is fair. They are different sports. All the opportunities I fought submission I did not fight by pathetic way, I just did not render what I would render if it was a BJJ’s competition. I am looking for discover what I missing in my game, so when I find it out, nobody will stop me.
Denis Martins: You lost to Matt Serra in ADCC 2001, to Jake Shields in Grapplers Quest and to Marcelo Garcia in ADCC 2005. These are very different fights, but what did take from them?
Leonardo Santos: Well my friend, I think this was a total lack of to be used of fighting without gi. I think I spend too much energy when I fight without a gi. I am used to fight with it. In 2006 I will try to keep a high-pace in no gi submission competitions andtrainings. You have already watched me fighting very-well against tough guys like Rodrigo Gracie, George St. Pierre and Leonardo Vieira, so I kept myself between the best fighters. I only want to know how to adapt my good game in BJJ to the submission.
Denis Martins: Your fight against Marcelo Garcia was much anticipated by the insiders and fans. What did miss for you beating him at that opportunity?
Leonardo Santos: The rule, I did a wrong tactic and the referee warned me by -1 point when I walked back, so to recover from it when you are not used to do it, it was hard. I would have to accept his game a little more. I would have chances of working to sink my game and pass his guard.
Denis Martins: Would you like to face him in BJJ’s competitions?
Leonardo Santos: Like I said before, I do not choose opponents, but I think this fight would be great. But I would like to face him without gi again.
Denis Martins: MMA is the issue now, and in your only MMA match you faced Takanori Gomi. How do you analyze Gomi nowadays and what can you tell us about that match?
Leonardo Santos: That opportunity was an adventure, because I always wanted to know if I had a game for MMA. Andre Pederneiras asked me if I wanted to fight in Japan, and I accepted in the right-moment. I did not ask him against who this fight would be or when would be it too. I had 20 days to train Boxing and MMA. I went to face Gomi who was the SHOOTO welterweight champion and for the surprise of all I lost a close split decision to him in a tough fight. I got to connect a punch on his nose which bled a lot. But I think I did not have enough experience to handle the situations which occurs in a MMA fight, if I had more time to train I would beat him, I believe. But the experience was very good, because I fought a real champion and nowadays he is the guy to be beaten.
Denis Martins: Why have you not fought more in MMA?
Leonardo Santos: Everybody thinks that to fight MMA is only to train and the fight will appear. There are a lot of fights, but the events do not pay a good salary. My phase in BJJ is superb and I can get a good salary fighting BJJ. For sure I have several doubts of kicking-off the BJJ competitions and go to MMA ones, I believe I have talent, a good reach for MMA and I do not fear hits. But if the events insist on paying less money then I win in BJJ, I am not going to fight. But I have hopes of being invited to fight MMA for a good salary.
Denis Martins: Do you think that Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro is the only guy who can beat Gomi?
Leonardo Santos: I think Gomi is a great fighter, and who is going to fight him needs to fight strategically. Because everybody is seeing that Gomi has sharpened hands, so why to force on fighting on the feet instead of fighting on the ground? We need to see if his ground game is good. I think Shaolin has chances of beating Gomi and I do not understand why Shaolin was never invited by DSE to compete at Bushido.
Denis Martins: You have a MMA fight scheduled for next March at ShowFight 4…
Leonardo Santos: …I still did not confirm it. I did a kind of agreement here in Canada and I only would leave this country if the money salary for this fight be very-good.
Denis Martins: Somehow, did you expect to fight MMA in Brazil?
Leonardo Santos: I never thought about it. In Brazil the proposal are always low and they do not respect the fighters such as they(the promoters) should do. But nothing is impossible.
Denis Martins: The name of your opponent is David Baron, do you know anything about him?
Leonardo Santos: I only know he is undefeated and I guess he is SHOOTO Holland champion. I still did not go in-depth into his game, if the fight confirms itself, I will do it.
Denis Martins: Is it good or not to fight against a guy never seen before?
Leonardo Santos: It is always good to know a little about the characteristics of your opponent. But if I am enough prepared to face him, I will impose my game without any worrying.
Denis Martins: I hope to see you here fight MMA. Thank you for your time.
Leonardo Santos: Thanks for the opportunity. Let’s see what will happen until March.