If you’re not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but the name “Comprido” sounds familiar, it’s probably because you remember Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros’ work with some guy named Brock Lesnar.
And given his accolades in the “gentle art,” it’s no surprise that the former UFC heavyweight champion had the Rio de Janeiro native with him throughout his short, but successful, mixed martial arts career. But mention Medeiros’ name to someone in the jiu-jitsu world, and the 38-year-old is spoken of in reverent tones, a level of respect given to a man who won two Absolute world titles in the black belt division, something only a select few have done.
Suffice to say, this is a black belt’s black belt. But when talking of the man he will be facing in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Superfight at the UFC Fan Expo on Friday, Roger Gracie, Medeiros’ tone is the one usually reserved for people talking about him.
“Roger is a great fighter,” Medeiros said. “He’s a lanky guy and he knows how to use his weight and body size really, really well. I will not say that he’s super strong, but he feels strong because he knows how to use the leverage so well, and he’s very efficient doing that. He is the best fighter I ever faced in my life.”
High praise, and Gracie would likely return the favor. The same is true for the gentlemen competing in Saturday’s BJJ Superfight, Xande Ribeiro and Marcio Cruz, making this weekend not just a showcase for the best jiu-jitsu has to offer, but to expose new fans to the beauty of the ground game when performed at its highest level.
“Between the four of us we have nine world titles at the Absolutes, which is the most important division, so this is four of the top fighters of all-time,” Medeiros said. That statement puts an exclamation mark on what is a must see event for those in Las Vegas this week because it shows why mixed martial artists need a ground game of some sort to truly be successful in the Octagon.
“The UFC was created around jiu-jitsu,” Medeiros said. “The first champion is Royce Gracie and the concept was developed by Rorion Gracie. The Gracie family started it, and it was taken over by the Fertitta brothers. Every single UFC fighter has a jiu-jitsu coach. All four of us either coached someone in the UFC or fought in the UFC. So jiu-jitsu and the UFC are deeply connected.”
Yet these are no light-hearted exhibitions. All four black belts want to win their bouts, and despite only having 10 minutes to work with, Medeiros believes that when you’re at this level, that’s more than enough time to get the job done.
“We adjust for whatever rules they’re presenting to us,” he said. “And that’s the common rule for the sport – 10 minutes for black belt. But if they come with no time limit or with a certain time limit of 20 minutes or 15 minutes, we will adjust for that. Somebody did scouting on the last world championships in the semifinals and finals, and they noticed that there are more submissions in a 10-minute fight at the highest level than in the so-called submission-only tournaments. So it’s all in your mindset to submit your opponent and if you have the opportunity, you will.”
For Medeiros, a win would be a sweet one, considering that he has a history with Gracie, who defeated him twice previously. When asked what difficulties Gracie presents for him, he laughs, saying “All of them, together.”
Regardless, with black belts at this elite level, all it takes is one mistake, and “Comprido” is hoping to catch Gracie slipping on Friday.
“I knew Roger way before we faced each other,” he said. “And I knew the kind of threat he would present to me before I stepped on that mat. That’s why you have to study your opponent, you have to know what he does well, what he doesn’t do so well, and you have to know about yourself. What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses and try to find a way to impose your best technique against his worst defense.”
That’s jiu-jitsu in a nutshell, and this weekend, fight fans can see it at its best.
“It’s very good for jiu-jitsu to be headlining an event as big as the UFC Fan Expo,” Medeiros said. “It will also help to bring the jiu-jitsu practitioners and athletes to the MMA community. So I really think we can help each other, and it’s a great opportunity.”