Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt: Roberto “Gordo” Lima

This week we feature Roberto “Gordo” Lima.  Roberto owns one of the top jiu-jitsu academies in Rio de Janeiro, trains top level fighters (you can see him cornering UFC Lightweight Champion Raphael Dos Anjos), and travels all over the globe teaching jiu-jitsu seminars.

“Gordo” is widely credited as the originator of the modern half guard in the early days of Gracie Barra and is one of the highest level instructors anywhere.

Presently he has taken on the challenge of being the head coach of the UAEJJF and often travels to the United Arab Emirates to oversee the jiu-jitsu training of the black belts.

“I love teaching, it doesn’t matter if they are black or white belts. But when we share a mat with black belts, we have a chance to learn a lot.
But with beginners is nice to see how they improve fast ! “
– Roberto “Gordo” Lima

Jiu-jitsu Times: Gordo, you got started in BJJ way back in the early days of Gracie Barra in Rio de Janeiro. What was the training environment like in an academy with many of the Gracies and Machados on the mat at the same time?

Gordo: I still remember those days , it was the best part of my life. When I was blue or purple belt, I could see all of those amazing people training in the same mat.
I learned a lot with these masters!


Jiu-jitsu Times: Was the training much different then than the modern times?

Gordo: Not much, but was different. At that time we care less about points and competition, we are looking more for self defense.

Not too many students were training every day. I think I’m the first generation to start training 6 days a week/ 2 times a day!

Jiu-jitsu Times: Who were your main training partners?

Gordo: Ralph Gracie, Daniel, Carlos Russo, “Big Head”, Marcio Nesercian, Ryan Gracie! We trained a lot !!

Jiu-jitsu Times: You are the head instructor of the Gordo Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Barra area of Rio de Janeiro. Your academy has produced champion athletes at the top level in both sport BJJ and MMA.

Gordo: Some of the students: Sandro Batata, Celcinho, Braga Neto, Rafael Dos Anjos, Rafael Pereira, Renato Babalu Sobral, Miragaia brothers and a lot more!

Jiu-jitsu Times: What does it take to produce a champion fighter? Is it coaching? Training partners? God given talent? How do you prepare a promising athlete to compete on the world level?

Gordo: Of course talent is important, but hard training with a good coaching is the must important. Hard training and good strategy!

Jiu-jitsu Times: You are credited as the creator of the modern half guard position after a serious knee injury at purple belt. As you coach top competitors and observe the Mundials, what half guard innovations do you see?

Gordo: Always we have new movements, but the basic conception is still the same.

Roberto ‘Gordo’ Correa Teaches the Old School Half Guard Sweep

Jiu-jitsu Times: Which BJJ athletes do you feel have the best half guard game now?

Gordo: Celsinho , Lucas Leite , Bernardo Faria

Jiu-jitsu Times: How do you see jiu-jitsu evolution with all of the new positions (ex. berimbolo, lapel guard, 50/50) compared to the original Ralph and Renzo Gracie old school jiu-jitsu?

Gordo: Evolution is nice, and never stops, but the basic style is forever! You can check Roger Gracie, Rodolfo Viera, and many more.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Is the change in emphasis on how jiu-jitsu is taught in many academies a good thing?

Gordo: No problem for me, but jiu-jitsu is always going to be a self defense and a great sport in the same thing.

Jiu-jitsu Times: How do you balance the sport aspect of jiu-jitsu with the real fighting instruction with your students?

Gordo: Biggest focus is sport, but never forget the rest! Because 85% of my students in Brasil are not competing.

Jiu-jitsu Times: You are the head coach of the UAEJJF. What is your position about?

Gordo: I love my new job as a had coach because it is a new challenge for me, and I can work with professional people to make a strong competitive team.

Jiu-jitsu Times: We have seen photos of huge seminars filled with black belts on the mat. How is it different for you to be teaching mats full of black belts as opposed to less experienced student classes?

Gordo: I love teaching, it doesn’t matter if they are black or white belts. But when we share a mat with black belts, we have a chance to learn a lot.

But with beginners is nice to see how they improve fast !

Both are very good.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What is the place of jiu-jitsu in your life? Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Your training and life?

Gordo: I can’t say place, but jiu-jitsu IS my life! I can’t live without my family and jiu-jitsu! Jiu-jitsu is a lifestyle where you are healthy, respectful, and happy.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for students of jiu-jitsu that worked for you in your training? A principle or training practice, motivational quote, tips on passing the guard etc.? What do you try to teach your students about the role of jiu-jitsu in their lives?

Gordo: Find your master and respect him and your training partners. Train hard, be careful to don’t get injuries, and the most important…ENJOY!!

Jiu-jitsu Times: Do you have any interesting projects or plans that you are developing

Gordo: My project now is in UAE. Make the fighter the best that I can, and bring them to compete around the world.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Will we see you in a Masters super fight at one of the grappling events?

Gordo: Of course you will, for sure! I love to compete and you will see soon!

Rolling Half Guard Sweep by Roberto ‘Gordo’ Correa



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