OTM EXCLUSIVE! Face to face with the Lizard of Gracie Barra – an interview with Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues by Carl Fisher.
Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues is one of Gracie Barra’s high profile jiu jitsu fighters, up there with the likes of Braulio Estima and Roger Gracie and, like Braulio and Roger, has now based himself in the UK in an effort to improve the standard of the BJJ academies in the North of England and to raise the profile of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in general to a new level.
Receiving his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr in 2003, Lagarto’s competition record speaks for itself, with a Gold medal and three bronze medals in the Mundials to his credit and two European gold and two Brazilian gold medals in the bag. With the Europeans in Portugal close on the horizon this year, Lagarto is aiming to notch up his third winners medal at the event.
Not content with success on the mats, Lagarto has also tested his mettle in the ring and recently competed in his first MMA fight; in similar vein to team mate Roger Gracie’s successful debut against Ron Waterman, Lagarto finished his fight easily in the first round with a submission over his opponent.
The future is looking bright for the gifted Brazilian, with future success assured both in jiu jitsu and the mixed martial arts arena; therefore I take pleasure in introducing to you, The Lizard of Gracie Barra!!
Carl: Thanks for taking time out for this interview Lucio; we are at the gym just now. You training for anything specific?
Lagarto: My training is different from day to day I like to have variety in my training so I don’t get stale; as for today I am training cardio. If I am training for a major tournament I tend to train on my own. I used to train with a guy from Cuba when I am back in Brazil and I also train with kettle bells, they help make me strong.
Carl: Is this type of training helpful for you?
Lagarto: Yes it is, it really works for me as I think that everyone has different genetics and have individual strengths and weaknesses. For myself I don’t have the explosive power that my training partner Gabriel possesses, so I am now trying to improve my explosive side by training more with kettle bells and doing more Olympic lifting exercises. In Jiu Jitsu matches the time limit is ten minutes so it’s not very good for a guy to be explosive all the time, as he will wear himself out too quickly, so I keep the same power at the start of the fight and try and maintain this level throughout the fight, without tiring myself out, so I like to work a lot on my endurance.
Carl: Are you going to Portugal this year?
Lagarto: Oh yes, both myself and Gabriel are going there to fight and although I am carrying a lot of injuries and a few broken fingers, I will be there to fight. Jiu Jitsu is my life, I won’t be staying at home watching the TV I want to be out there on the mats. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, I will be there and do my best.
Carl: What weight group will you be competing in?
Lagarto: I think I will fight in the heavy, maybe super heavy, depending how much weight I will lose this week and Gabriel will be in the medium heavy weight division.
How are you preparing for this event?
Lagarto: I am training every day with Gabriel and I think the UK is a great place for me to train and prepare for the events as there is Roger Gracie, Braulio Estima, Octavia and Gabriel to train with. All these top guys together in the UK and we can train very hard and we are training on a regular basis, I was training with Braulio and Octavia yesterday and we do a lot of sparring and specific training and we are improving a lot.
Carl: Can you tell me more about Gabriel?
Lagarto: I have known Gabriel Kitober for more than ten years in Brazil and he trained with Osvaldo Alves before he joined Gracie Barra; all the best guys trained with Osvaldo including Rolles Gracie a lot of good guys came from his club, he is a very good coach with very tough training. You always trained hard with Osvaldo, up at six in the morning running on the beach and the doing sprints, before going to the club to warm up with Osvaldo and train specifics with him. He trains you very hard, everyone who knows Osvaldo will agree with me, so I am lucky to have Gabriel with me. After Osvaldo was invited to join Gracie Barra from Carlinhos I met up once again with Gabriel and we are back training again and I am learning moves that Gabriel has learned from Osvaldo, which is helping me improve in my own training.
Carl: Who is the better looking guy?
Lagarto: For sure it’s me (laughs, while Gabriel looks on and laughs at Lagarto and says the opposite)
Carl: How often do you train with Braulio and Roger?
Lagarto: Two or three times a week with Braulio and we switch venues so it’s not just the same guys travelling all the time. Everyone in BJJ knows Roger’s the best at the minute and Braulio’s one tough guy and Gabriel is very explosive and has a great guard and I think this is the way forward for my own training and the others guys as well.
Carl: When preparing for a competition, do you do any extra training or do you just stick to a routine?
Lagarto: We have crazy routines like rules to get up early and do hundreds of press ups before training just to get you in a disciplined mind, but nearer the time of an event, we start to train that little bit harder. If we trained hard every day our bodies would not take the punishment and would break down, so we maintain a good balance of training and when the time is right we start to increase the intensity.
Carl: What does your training consist of when preparing for events?
Lagarto: I never worry about fighting from the top and know a number of takedowns, but I am now starting to train Judo more in the UK and adding this to my game and I am trying to improve my explosiveness as I mentioned earlier and am doing more specific training with my partners. I also practice Yoga to focus my mind and keep me supple and flexible.
Carl: Now you have a training partner here who speaks Brazilian, has this helped you, having someone to talk to in your own language?
Lagarto: For sure yes it has. The Gracie family when they get up they speak Jiu Jitsu, when they go training it’s jiu Jitsu, when they go home after training it’s Jiu Jitsu. It’s all Jiu Jitsu. If when you go home all you have is your wife and you’re talking Jiu Jitsu, she’s going to get pissed. Having Gabriel here with me, we can talk about Jiu Jitsu all the time and about our problems and really help each other out. So this helps a lot and helps me to improve.
Carl: Being a world champion there must be a tremendous amount of pressure each time you step up to compete; how do you cope with this?
Lagarto: A very good question. Everybody feels the same when they are a champion, they feel stress and pressure to win every time they compete, if they say they don’t it’s bullshit, everyone feels the pressure. When you have a good mental outlook you need to control yourself and need to think about one detail at a time and not worry about what the other guy is doing and what other people are thinking about you. I am not worried about winning or losing when I compete I just want to give it my best shot and do the best I can. The guys in Pride fight in front of tens of thousands of people and at the end of the day it’s down to them to remain calm and focused on their fight, whereas there is nowhere near the same number at the Mundials. However there is still pressure at the Mundials every year I compete there, so I always try and stay focused whenever I compete.
Carl: You fought and won your first MMA match in 2006?
Lagarto: I did that’s correct, I had no idea who I would be fighting on the day, it was crazy, but I knew the promoter and he asked me if I wanted to fight. I didn’t really want to fight MMA at this point in my life and the guy asked me my price and I said I didn’t really want anything and the promoter said you’re more crazy than I imagined. Even when I entered the match I didn’t know who my opponent was I just stepped into the ring and used my Jiu Jitsu, I took him down got the top position and finished him with an arm bar submission.
Carl: Did you train with the Combat Team in Brazil?
Lagarto: Yes I did with guys like Babalu and Gustavo ‘Xixu’ and I really enjoyed the training and hope to enter another match real soon.
Carl: Would you fight in the UK?
Lagarto: I would like to fight in the UK on a major show and the UK has some great boxing clubs and will train a lot of boxing and Muay Thai and then start to look for some UK matches nd maybe try and compete before the Mundials this year.
Carl: Will you be competing in the Mundials this year?
Lagarto: Of course, I hope to fight in my own group and the Absolute and I will need to train harder than ever, there are a lot of tough professional guys out there. Last year I didn’t train as hard as I could as I was here in the UK teaching and then I was sick with allergies and from going to a cold country to a hot country, it really messed with my body.
Carl: Do you have a specific teacher in Brazil?
Lagarto: Yes Carlos Gracie is my master but he is very busy in the USA and Gordo has also helped me a lot and he is very busy, so I am training almost alone, most times it’s my blue belts and purple belts that help me a lot, as well as watching guys like Roger Gracie, Fabio Gurgel and Marcelo Garcia, he’s a fucking tough guy. When I go back to Brazil I will spend one month in Manaus with Osvaldo Alves and train directly with him, he’s a very good teacher. The weather is very good out there and there are a lot of tough guys to train with there, who will help me improve.
Carl: You now have a very good training group in the UK now?
Lagarto: Yes I have Roger, Braulio, Gabriel and Octavia, so I don’t have to worry about getting back to Brazil and improve my training, when I have some of the best guys here in the UK. I train every day with Gabriel and two or three times a week with Roger and Braulio.
Carl: You are now in charge of the Gracie Barra clubs in the North of England?
Lagarto: That’s right; I am very busy teaching and trying to improve all my students, from all walks of life. I have the guys that only want to compete and I have the family guys who work all day and then train with twice a week, I want all of them to improve as best they can. I have clubs in Manchester, Sheffield, Mansfield, Preston, Stockton all over and I am now starting monthly interclubs just for my students so they can compete and improve their jiu jitsu.
Carl: You had your first interclub at the weekend?
Lagarto: Yes I had students from five academies competing against each other and I really enjoyed the day and so did Gabriel. I think the blue belts are all improving and I want all my guys to be like the blue and purple belts back in Brazil, I don’t want any Disneyland belts. Train hard and the belts will come in time. The interclubs give the chance for the students to show off the techniques I have been teaching and I can see how well they are progressing as well. I will be doing these events each month so there is plenty of opportunity for my students to improve.
Carl: Lucio, thanks for your time and I wish you every success at the Europeans
Lagarto: My pleasure Carl and thanks for the interview
New belts from Lagarto
Gracie Barra clubs from Preston, Brierfield and Stoke on Trent were put through their paces by Lagarto and Gabriel Kitober on Sunday 25th February; hard work and lots of sweat was the order of the day and everyone was pushed to the limit and at the end of the session, stripes were awarded to a number of white belts and belts were awarded to the following people:-
Colin Robinson – brown
Carl Fisher – purple
Paul Hartley – purple
Sam Grundy – blue
Walt Barnes – blue
John Stokes – blue
Adam Grayston – blue
Nigel Appleyard – blue
Jon Hand – blue
Congratulations to all from Lagarto and Gabriel!
See you on the mats!