Antonio Carlos “Cara de Sapato” was one of GRACIEMAG.com’s picks to stand out at black belt this season. It’s a rocky road but the CheckMat rep has already come up with some big results. At this past weekend’s World Pro tryouts in Natal, Brazil, the Helder “Bob Esponja” student in the Brazilian state of Paraíba topped the over-92kg division. But this season Antonio had to overcome another major adversary: the trauma of having lost a great friend.
Check out what he had to tell GRACIEMAG.com:
What do you make of your performance at the competition?
The championship was great, a high-level event. There were a lot of folks from here, the Northeast. We don’t have a lot of competitions around these parts, yet the competitors here are at a solid level. I won again and am plenty pleased. Over in Abu Dhabi the best will be there, like Rodolfo Vieira and Bernardo Faria, the guys who make a splash at the Worlds and the Pan. I’m coming up through the ranks now. This year was a rough one for me, so I’m really happy to have achieved this result.
It was a rough year? Please explain…
A friend of mine (Rufino Gomes “Morcego”) was murdered; I suffered from panic syndrome and had to undergo treatment for it. I wasn’t seeing my best days but managed to do some good work this year. Like I said, I’m coming up now, facing a bunch of guys who’ve been around awhile. I’m learning from all of them and will work with Bob Esponja, my teacher, to keep getting better and better.
You got your black belt late last year. What has changed for you since leaving brown belt?
At black belt, besides the 10-minute match duration at IBJJF events, a lot has changed. We face athletes who’ve been at this rank for a long time, are very experienced. At the same time, there are the guys who just came up from brown belt and are charged up with desire to win. Or in other words, this is where everyone converges. Now, any match I get will be way tough and there’s no room for mistakes. I have to give my all, keep to strategy, because a tiny mistake can mean certain defeat. I felt that in the flesh at the Worlds, when I made a mistake against Rafael Lovato. But I took third at the Worlds, third at the World Pro, and I won the Brazilian Nationals. I faced a bunch of guys who were role models to me and I’m happy for it; at least I held my own.
Here you competed in a division other than your own. Will you compete at over-92kg at the World Pro, too?
Last year I competed at 92kg and should remain there. Truth is, right now I’m weighing 89kg. I preferred competing one division up because there were two guys from my team at 92kg. Thank God it all worked out. As I’m always competing in the absolute division, I’m used to facing stronger opponents.