Training with black belts turns a child into a technician. Training with “Jacare” Souza turns a child into an animal.
LFA 100’s Gregory Rodrigues began his martial arts journey in northern Brazil with a big interest in BJJ. At a young age, Rodrigues developed a tight bond with gator-like vice grips and one hell of a future ahead of him.
“I’ve known Jacare since I was eight years old,” Rodrigues said. “When I first started training, he was just a purple belt.”
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza would go on to have one of the most notable careers in middleweight history. He would steal the show in Jungle Fight and DREAM before etching his name in immortality as the middleweight champ in the murderers row of the Strikeforce 185-pound division.
Defeating names like Matt Lindland, Tim Kennedy, Robbie Lawler, among others, he seamlessly fit in in the UFC and immediately went on a five-fight winning streak.
Back in Brazil, Rodrigues continued training with Souza day in and day out when he made the decision to transition to MMA. Still a BJJ ace at heart, Rodrigues aims to run full speed ahead in the same direction Jacare went and become an MMA champion.
With 10 professional fights and a 7-3 record to his name, the 28-year-old has already accomplished a lot in and outside of the MMA world that Jacare has had a front row seat to. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, his mentor has never left.
“He was the best man at my wedding,” Rodrigues said. “We are so close, he’s the guy who’s always supported me. I’m here now and I’m grateful for him.”
Rodrigues had a chance to score a UFC contract in season four of Dana White’s Contender Series but ate a barrage of punches and lost to Jordan Williams. His big moment had slipped through his fingers and one of the first people to call him was Jacare.
Rodrigues now lives and trains in Florida. The days of Souza tuning him up in a sparring session only to call him that night and remind him how bad he beat him are a thing of the past. The days of Souza training in a purple belt are also far, far in the rear-view mirror. Rodrigues is now in the front end of his career. He’s been along for the ride while Jacare was on top of the world. Now it’s his turn.
Every fight along the way, Rodrigues has had his long training sessions in mind and although he’s lost a few, he’s never been beaten mentally, no matter who the opponent is.
“I would remember that I train with Jacare and the best guys in the world; this guy is nothing for me,” Rodrigues explained. “That would help me a lot in this sport.”
The decision to transition from BJJ to professional MMA was a risky one. A 1-2 fighter in the beginning, it might have begun poorly, but when Rodrigues began training at a different gym and saw the payoff of every training session with killers like Jacare, it was clear he was where he belongs. He’s 6-1 since his rocky start and in the ideal promotion to turn heads and continue sharpening his tools.
“You don’t see the evolution of the sport, day by day,” Rodrigues explained. “Sometimes you don’t see your evolution at all. You don’t see how great you become. You want to be better the next day than you were yesterday. It’s not like that. So when I moved to a different team after spending time with that gym, I saw how good I had become because I trained with him.”
Win, lose or draw, Rodrigues feels that he will always have the greatest support system in MMA and has always had the greatest mentor in MMA.
Catch Gregory Rodrigues at LFA 100 February 19 at 6 pm PT ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!