Gabriel Kitober has been studying jiu-jitsu for the better part of two decades all over the world. He has competed at every level of competition, including placing twice at the Worlds. After teaching in Brazil and the United Kingdom, Gabriel has now relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is teaching and training with some of the best fighters in the world. Gabriel is also one of the guys that helped Scotty from OTM win his first gold medal in Brazil. The two of them teamed with André Galvão, Spencer Olsen, Vinicius Nascimento, and Tiago Figueredo to win the 2002 Brasileiro de Equipes (Brazilian Team) Championship. Fortunately, OTM was able to catch up with Gabriel in the week leading up to the 2010 Pan-American Championship to discuss his training background, future competition plans, and the evolution of jiu-jitsu worldwide, as well as some of his thoughts on some upcoming MMA bouts featuring some of his friends and training partners.
Bevois: You’re a black belt under Oswaldo Alves. How long have you been training Jiu-Jitsu?
Gabriel Kitober: In 1994, I started training at Gracie Barra with Carlos Gracie Jr. My father was his friend and introduced me to him. After that, I trained a little bit with Royler Gracie and from there I trained with Oswaldo Alves for 14 years.
Bevois: What got you interested in the sport back then?
Gabriel Kitober: I was studying Judo at the time and Roger Gracie’s mom, who is a Gracie, was friends with my father. She got my dad to start training and then they got me into jiu-jitsu. Judo is good, but I decided to try Jiu-Jitsu, so they introduced me to Carlos Gracie Jr. and I loved it ever since.
Bevois: You are known for your throws, what is your rank Judo?
Gabriel Kitober: I am a brown belt in Judo.
Bevois: You have a very impressive competition record in Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Grappling. What are some of the titles you have won?
Gabriel Kitober: I am a 5-time Brasileiro (Brazilian) champion, 2-time Estado (State) champion, Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) champion, two-time Mundial (World) Absolute silver medalist, FILA World Grappling champion, European champion, and Brasileiro de Equipes (Brazilian Team) champion.
Bevois: You have also trained with some of the best in the world throughout your career. Who are some of your training partners we should watch on the world stage?
Gabriel Kitober: I trained with Braulio Estima and Lucio “Lagarto” Rodrigues when I lived in England. There was also Paulo Filho, Amaury Bitetti, and Ricardo Silva. I also trained with Fredson Paixão when I lived in Brazil. We are now both here in Las Vegas and still friends, but don’t train together because we teach at different schools.
Bevois: Both Paulo and Braulio fight next month against world-class judoka. Paulo fights Hector Lombard on May 13th at Bellator 18 and Braulio makes his MMA debut against Rick Hawn on May 15th at Shine Fights 5. How do you think they will do in those bouts?
Gabriel Kitober: Braulio has excellent jiu-jitsu and a very good future in MMA. He is a very smart guy and picks things up very easily. He adapts to new techniques and movements very easily and will pick up the striking game very quickly. He will also adapt his jiu-jitsu to MMA very well.
Paulo is an excellent MMA fighter. He’s one of the best fighters I have seen in my life. He’s very strong, smart, and he knows how to use jiu-jitsu for MMA. He can beat Hector Lombard. When his mind is right, no one can beat him.
Bevois: You have known Scotty from OTM for a long time. How did you two meet?
Gabriel Kitober: I have known Scotty for about 8 years now. I met him one day, when we fought together on the same Gracie Barra team and won at the 2002 Brasileiro de Equipes (Brazilian Team) Championship in Brazil.
Bevois: How long have you been teaching at Warrior Training Center and how do you like living in Las Vegas?
Gabriel Kitober: I have been at Warrior for two and a half months and I love it here in Vegas. It is a very good place for people that like MMA, jiu-jitsu and grappling. It’s been my life for almost 20 years. I like fights and I like to help my friends.
Bevois: How did you end up teaching at Warrior Training Center?
Gabriel Kitober: Ricardo Pires is one of my friends from Brazil. He had been training Frank Mir, and other guys in Las Vegas. He introduced me to the people from Warrior and that is how I came here.
Bevois: Who are some of your top students right now in jiu-jitsu and MMA?
Gabriel Kitober: I’m not really their main instructor, but I like to train and help my friends at the gym. Some of the top guys are Forrest Griffin, Matt Brown, and Matt Riddle.
Bevois: Do you have any future aspirations as a competitor or are you mostly focused on your students right now?
Gabriel Kitober: I am going to do the Pan-Am this weekend and the Worlds in June. I also want to fight again. I won my first MMA fight last summer in Brazil (over Ricardo Viana). I threw him and submitted him in about 2 minutes. I am really excited about testing myself again to see how I do in MMA.
Bevois: Do you plan on staying here in Las Vegas very long?
Gabriel Kitober: I teach at Warrior and stay at my friend’s house right now. I like this country, I like Vegas, and in the future I would like to stay here.
Bevois: You have lived, taught, and trained on three continents. What are the main differences between jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Manchester (England), and Las Vegas (USA)?
Gabriel Kitober: In Las Vegas, people come to train jiu-jitsu specifically for MMA. They love MMA here. The big difference is they tend to start everything together. They are training striking and grappling, but don’t have time for the Gi. In Brazil, people love to train with the Gi. They love pure jiu-jitsu and training pure jiu-jitsu. In England, people love the Gi too. I think in the future, jiu-jitsu will be very good over there. They have Roger Gracie, Braulio Estima, Braulio’s brother Victor, Lagarto, Otavio Souza. They also have top schools like Brasa, Checkmat, and Gracie Barra. English people are tough people and they like jiu-jitsu, so England has everything for good jiu-jitsu. I also taught a seminar in Israel. I never thought they had that much jiu-jitsu, but 300 people showed up for my seminar and they had very good blue belts and purple belts.
Bevois: There are a lot of big fights coming up with some of your fellow jiu-jitsu players, countrymen, and training partners. How do you see the following fights going: Anderson Silva-Demian Maia, Renzo Gracie-Matt Hughes, Lyoto Machida-Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Forrest Griffin-Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira?
Gabriel Kitober: Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia – I believe in jiu-jitsu. I know Anderson is a black belt, but he is not the same level black belt as Demian Maia. Anderson is the best guy right now, but I believe in jiu-jitsu so much that I believe Demian has the ability to keep Anderson on the floor. He will make a good strategy and submit him.
Renzo Gracie vs. Matt Hughes – Renzo will win, because he has a lot of technique to escape Hughes’ wrestling and ground and pound. He is very experienced. Renzo has a very dangerous Guillotine and that’s how I see him submitting Hughes.
Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – They are both very good at strategy. Shogun has very good Muay Thai and Lyoto is a Karate fighter, but both guys have very good jiu-jitsu as well. It’s difficult to see who will win, because of this. The guy with better focus and a better mind that night will win with strategy.
Forrest Griffin vs. Antonio Rogerio “Minotoro” Nogueira – I train with Forrest all the time and I put my money on Forrest. I think Forrest is physically stronger. Little Nogueira is dangerous in the clinch, has very good boxing, and he fights south paw. He also has a good half-guard and good chokes, because jiu-jitsu is his base, but Forrest’s submission defense is exceptional and he is very capable of submitting people too. I see Forrest winning this one.
Bevois: Is there anything else you would like to add or say before we conclude this interview?
Gabriel Kitober: I want to say hello to the guys at On The Mat and the guys running the site. The guys down in Brazil love the site. It has really grown. When I spoke to Scott, we talked about how the site (www.OnTheMat.com) is now very big. I read the site all the time and people in Brazil love to read On The Mat.