The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Super Featherweight (now known as Light Featherweight) division is currently dominated by the likes of Michael Musumeci and João Miyao. Before that, it was the legend Gui Mendes. Before the new generation took over, the Super Featherweight division was ruled Robson ‘Robinho’ Moura.
Robson is widely considered as one of the greatest competitors in BJJ’s Super Featherweight division, a weight class where he won six world titles in his career.
Robson was recently at FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts, for a BJJ seminar where he shared his thoughts on Jiu-Jitsu, the early days of Nova União, the current crop of BJJ superstars, “Everyday Porrada” and what it takes to become a world champion.
It Started by Accident
Robson started training and competing at a very young age. He got involved in BJJ at the age of 10 and started competing when he was 13.
“I was not watching Bruce Lee or action movies before I got involved in BJJ. My friend, who was 14 at that time, was talking about old Kung Fu movies and said we should try to learn that. So I told my father about it and he sent me to his friend to train BJJ,” said Robson.
“In my very first class, I saw this overweight and really big Blue Belt do jumping front rolls and back rolls and I wanted to do that. It was so amazing to watch someone move that way.”
According to Robson - interestingly enough - years later this particular Blue Belt who wowed him with his movements would become his student. “This Blue Belt had to take time off training for many years but eventually came back to the mats as my student.”
The Early Days of Nova União
These days, Nova União is known as one of the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) academies in the world. It is home to former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight champion José Aldo, and has produced champions such as Renan Barão (former UFC Bantamweight Champion), BJ Penn (former UFC Welterweight and UFC Lightweight Champion) and Junior dos Santos (former UFC Heavyweight Champion).
However, when Nova União started under the tutelage of André Pederneiras and Wendell Alexander, it was just a small BJJ academy with a dream to create world class BJJ competitors. And they did. Vitor Shaolin, Leo Santos and Bruno Bastos are some of the world renowned BJJ competitors to come out of Nova União.
“It was just hard training every day in the small academy. It was very important for us because everyone was fighting to get out of poverty and BJJ was the way. Everyone was hungry to win. When we won tournaments, people viewed us differently.”
“Back in the day, we didn’t have the internet or social media. There were only two magazines - GracieMag and Tatami. There was a sports TV show back in Brazil that would put up the best fights and that meant a lot for us. Just to get your name in the magazine, you need to showcase your Jiu-Jitsu. Medals alone were not enough. Your Jiu-Jitsu needed to be outstanding.”
Robson was able to win six world titles because of his work ethic and dedication to training. He was training three times a day in a room full of champions. During his competition days, losing was not an option. It was either you win or you lose. There was no learning.
Those with injuries just sucked it up and continued to be resilient on the mats.
“Today I see things differently but back then it was hard. I was sleeping on the mats from Monday to Friday. I would see my family on the weekends and then I go back to the gym to train.”
Robson’s dedication to the art and undeniable skills caused a little controversy when he competed as a Black Belt in the Mundials. Robson’s promotion to Black Belt wasn't according to the minimum time frame guidelines approved by the Jiu-Jitsu Federation back then.
“I received my Brown Belt in January 1996 after winning the Mundials. I competed as a Brown Belt until November 1996 and received my Black Belt. In January 1997, I won the World Championships as a Black Belt.”
Robson would go on to win 5 more world titles as a Black Belt thereafter.
Robson, who has stopped competing, currently focuses on his academy and his students around the world. FaMA’s very own Teaching Assistant, Kinaree Adkins, trains with Robson whenever she visits the U.S.
One of the major lessons he tries to instill in his students is knowing how to handle a loss. “I’ve seen many very good competitors who do great when they are winning but can’t return to the mats after suffering one or two defeats. If you know how to handle defeat, you will be on the mats forever.”
Robson spent more than three hours at FaMA to teach his favourite moves and showed students important drills to help them develop their Jiu-Jitsu.
FaMA hopes to see Robson Moura in Singapore again soon!
FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts training facility located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from the Clarke Quay MRT station, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Each program is led by experts in their respective fields. Whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for everyone.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ as it is commonly known around the world, is a self-defence martial art that enables a smaller, weaker person to protect themselves against a much larger attacker using leverage and pressure. Formed from Kodokan Judo in Japan, Jiu Jitsu found its way to Brazil in the 1910s through Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka and no-holds-barred prize fighter. During his time in Brazil, Maeda accepted a young Carlos Gracie as his student. Carlos would later pass on his knowledge to his brothers, most notably Helio Gracie - the father of modern Brazilian Jiujitsu. The Gracie family would go on to spread BJJ through The Gracie Challenge and eventually the creation of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Today, BJJ has grown to be more than just an effective unarmed fighting system. It helps young children deal with bullies and adults live a healthy lifestyle. BJJ classes are offered daily at FaMA under the tutelage of Black Belts Zoro Moreira, Robyn Goudy and Thiago Gaspary.