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Interview: Augusto Tanquinho on how the UFC helped him claim ADCC title

Tanquinho after winning at ADCC 2019. Jair Lacerda

GRACIEMAG tried to catch Augusto Mendes still with adrenaline rushing through his body after ADCC 2019, which ended September 29 in California, and through WhatsApp got in touch: “Amazing! Is there a title missing now? The under 66kg champion of the world’s most charming grappling event answered right away, “No! I think I’ve done the whole fucking thing now,” and laughed a lot.

After four great fights in the lightweight ADCC category, the Soul Fighters black belt spoke with editor Marcelo Dunlop and told how the UFC and high-level training helped him. Check it out!

GRACIEMAG: At the 2013 Jiu-Jitsu World Championship you had to beat guys like Rubens Cobrinha and Rafa Mendes to win gold. This time, you beat Cobrinha’s son in the final, Kennedy Maciel. What are the other parallels between the two achievements?

AUGUSTO TANQUINHO: Winning in Jiu-Jitsu requires that thing of getting into your opponent’s mind, you have to try to mentally unbalance your main rivals. And for that you need to be mentally very strong. In the 2013 Worlds I managed to get ahead on the score in all fights, but beyond the technical part my mind was in the right space, and only thus I managed to beat Rafa and Cobrinha. At ADCC 2019, I think my maturity made a difference — I’ve faced countless generations in Jiu-Jitsu and I’m still there. So, oddly enough, being older made a difference. On the ADCC mats I felt more intelligent, strategic, calm, technical and physically up to date than in other competitions. It was complete and ready and some of the boys I faced will still go through some of these steps. It was two different times, but two indescribable sensations. Being the best in the world again is special.

How did being a UFC fighter help you reach the title?

Wrestling training was the main aspect that made a difference. Being able to train with top-notch wrestlers here in the US has really solidified my standup. In an event like the ADCC this makes a big difference.

Does everything that works in the UFC work in the ADCC?

No, I wouldn’t say everything. Self-defense and blocking techniques are extremely important in the Octagon. Now, if an ADCC champion trains MMA and finds some space, it will make it difficult for any UFC athlete. The problem with MMA is that when the blow comes in there are people who forget about Jiu-Jitsu, so you have to be expecting everything.

What was your toughest duel at ADCC 2019?

I believe the fight against Paulo Miyao was the hardest. Paulo is amazing, never gives up. You don’t break him mentally; his technique is absurd. I see very few weaknesses in his game, so I think I beat him more due to willpower and heart.

What about Kennedy? Does his game resemble that of dad Cobrinha?

Hard to say, because I only had the chance to fight Kennedy once. Now with Cobrinha there were seven fights (he’s ahead, 4 to 3). But the little I felt was that they do have similarities, but I felt that a lot is from Kennedy himself. Cobrinha made me more nervous being the coach in the fight than Kennedy himself fighting. Everything he said and observed about my mistakes and spaces was very rich in detail; it was amazing. Maybe if it were him there I wouldn’t have a chance to recover every space. Anyway, I feel privileged to face father and son at a high level, as I faced them both. Full respect for the Maciel family.

How does this title change your career, if it does?

I really don’t know, it’s too early to know; maybe it changes, maybe the MMA world wants to know more about me and I get some good contract in a better organization, maybe more people want to learn from me at seminars, but I’m really happy to make it on a list of very few people who were black belt champions at the IBJJF World Championship, the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds and the ADCC Worlds. And if you count those who also won the World Pro in Abu Dhabi, that list gets even smaller. So I’m happy to etch my name in the history of the sport.

What did you think about the absolute final? In your opinion as teacher, why does Gordon Ryan frustrate the best in the gi?

Simple; because he may talk a lot but he trains a lot, and nothing beats hard work at the gym. Maybe the best in the gi are sinning in their training and end up failing when facing a well-trained person; that can be one aspect. And the gringo is too good; you have to take your hat off for him. No one is at that level without dedication and effort.

What is your plan now?

To train more! And to thank the fans for their love for me and my career; I have been competing at a high level for over 20 years, 15 as a black belt, and I’m still among the best. It’s all gratitude!

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