Facing The Beast: One Man’s Experience Fighting Saulo Ribeiro In Competition

Facing The Beast: One Man’s Experience Fighting Saulo Ribeiro In Competition



BJJ Black Belt Eddie Edmunds, had the honor of facing 6x world champion Saulo Ribeiro in competition at the 2007 World Championships (mundial) here is his experience:

Source: PedroSauer.com

Eddie Edmunds

Eddie Edmunds takes you through his experience of the 2007 Mundials

I am in the bullpen awaiting my second match of the day at the 2007 World Jiu Jitsu Championship held in Long Beach, California. I just won my first match and I am wondering whom I compete with next. Taking in a deep breath, I try to stay calm. Then I hear my name called.

“Edmunds, Eddie. Edmunds, Eddie report immediately to the match arena entrance.” It’s late in the day, almost evening and I have been here for hours but I feel completely relaxed and prepared for whomever I am bracketed with next.

 “Ribeiro, Saulo. Ribeiro, Saulo, please report to the match arena entrance.” So I am to go against Saulo Ribeiro! As I stand and approach the IBJJF official, I feel like a stranger and a little out of place. What compelled me to compete in the Mundials? A short conversation in the middle of a hot July…

I had no intention of competing in the Mundials. Sure, I wanted to go see it and watch world-class competitors show the Jiu Jitsu world why they were considered the cream of the crop. As for me entering to compete it wasn’t going to happen save for one isolated conversation with Pedro Sauer Black Belt, John Carlquist.

Johnny, as most of us call him, is one of Pedro Sauer’s most technical black belts and a great competitor too.

“So you’re doing the Mundials for sure?” I asked Johnny when I stopped by his house during a blistering July heat wave.

“Yeah” he said, “I just registered last night. Looks like Marcelo Garcia, Mike Fowler and couple other really good guys are in my division.”

“Man, that division is definitely stacked with some great talent,” I respond quietly.

“You thinking about competing?” Johnny asks me.

“I don’t know” I replied, thinking about my weight bracket, “My division seems to be pretty stacked too. I guess Saulo, Romulo and Tarsis are all competing”

“Well, think of the opportunity,” he responded casually, “next year it may not be in the states and it’s a good way to test yourself.” I nodded slowly,

“That’s true,” I replied.

Johnny and I talked for a bit longer, and as I drove off Johnny’s statement fired me up and I started to seriously consider entering the tournament. What hit home the most was the ‘opportunity.’ I didn’t have to compete to win. I could also compete because it was the biggest and best Jiu Jitsu tournament in the world. And it wasn’t in Brazil, 20 hours away, it was in California which, by plane, was two hours away. A mental plan began to slowly form itself in preparation for the Mundials.

I also had another realization: There are many aspects of the tournament that are outside my control. But the things I can control: my attitude toward the competition, my physical preparation and my diet. These things can be improved upon every day.

The following week I sat down and prepared a Competition Plan. I wrote down a list of specific day to day tasks that I know from experience would anchor me to feel confident, conditioned and technically ready to step on the Pyramid mat.

No doubt less than two months wasn’t the ideal time to prepare for the Mundials but again my attitude was “opportunity” and I tried to focus on that and shut out any negative mind-talk.

My preparation addressed four different areas: Physical training, nutrition, mental strength and my primary strategy at the competition.

Physical preparation entailed training Jiu Jitsu five days a week for an hour or two each time. After I taught class I would practice takedowns and Jiu Jitsu with my students. At my work there is a weight room with exercise bicycles and each day I would go in there and do a 20 min. workout to increase my cardio. In addition, I did yogic breathing each night as taught to me by Orlando Cani. (Cani was Rickson Gracie’s yoga instructor and has great insight into the physical preparation one needs before a competition.)

Since I didn’t need to cut weight, each morning I ate 3-5 eggs and several pieces of wheat toast. I also drank lots of water each day in addition to drinking large amounts of chocolate milk

Why chocolate milk? In a recent study by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, the journal concluded that drinking chocolate milk following a workout increased endurance.

I don’t really know if it did or not but it was a good excuse to enjoy chocolate milk each day?

The third area, mental preparation, was by far the most important for me because I didn’t have the ideal time frame to prepare physically. No doubt my competition would be training fanatically and would be physically more prepared than me. And while my physical preparations weren’t to their expected standards, I knew that my mental preparation would be intense and I devised a routine involving visualization and relaxation exercises that I knew would help center me mentally and strengthen me for competition day.

Finally, after considering several approaches to my competition strategy, my primary intention was to compete from my closed guard.
I was first taught Jiu Jitsu from the closed guard by Professor Pedro Sauer, Because of that, I was decent with triangles and sweeps felt that I had the highest chance of success with this strategy.

In addition, I didn’t intend to jump guard and stall, I wanted to start attacking for my favorite submissions: arm locks, chokes, wristlocks were all part of my closed guard submissions. I also knew fighting for the takedown was not a great idea because I didn’t have a great base in Judo and many of the Jiu Jitsu guys would have high-level Judoka skills.

So, during my night classes we did drills that helped me to find openings and techniques that allowed me to play closed guard against my opponents.

As my days and weeks of training began to add up, I began to notice the more I physically and mentally committed to my preparation, the better I felt. I quit thinking about who I might compete against and just focused on my Competition Plan: Physical, Mental, Nutrition and Competition Strategy.

The simple effort of doing cardio at my work boosted my conditioning immensely. One of the first things I noticed from my consistent training schedule was my cardio didn’t level off but continued to get better. Many of my students tired after my training with them and I felt an increase of confidence and a mental edge. The little cardio sessions I did at work combined with my other training began to pay off. It was a testament to me of the principle of consistency even in small doses.

From time to time I felt ambivalent about my decision to compete but I could immediately realign my focus and rekindle the competitive fire by thinking about the “opportunity” and that would anchor me right away.

Three weeks before the tournament I intensified my overall preparations. Upon rising in the morning, I added my yogic breathing and a light cardio workout. In the afternoon at my work, I added to my present workout, a quick jaunt up four flights of stairs. Sometimes I got tired and knew I was over-training, during those times I increased my 10-20 minute deep relaxation rest periods and that was a big aid for me in physical and mental recovery.

Friday, August 24th finally arrives. I fly out to Salt Lake City and arrive in Los Angeles Friday afternoon. I hang out at the tournament and watch the purple belts compete. I don’t want to think about competing the next day, I just watch the matches and enjoy being a spectator for a moment.

By and large I feel good about what I have done to prepare for my matches and mentally I felt calm and centered. The IBJJF had put up the competition brackets and my first competitor is Marcelo Braga. I look his name up on the internet and find he is a black belt from the Macaco Gold Team.

It is a little surreal going to the Long Beach Pyramid because I had attended the ADCC 2005 World Championship held there and watched Roger Gracie, Jacare and many other compete in that same arena.

That night I stay in a hotel with two other Pedro Sauer competitors. We’re all a little mellow, each of us thinking about our own matches.

I sleep in Saturday morning and when I wake up, I do a light run in a park behind our hotel and some light stretches. I feel a little nervous, but become calmer after my morning workout and a good breakfast. I drive over to the Pyramid for a few hours and watch some of the matches but my focus wasn’t there and I eventually leave the arena and go back to my hotel room and take a nap. When I wake up, I get everything ready, making sure I have plenty of food, double check that I have my gi, belt, briefs etc. and head off to the competition.

After my arrival at the Pyramid I figure that my division wont be called for three or four hours. The wait at times is unbearable and several times my only thought is “let’s get this over with.” But I know that’s the fight or flight response and I let it pass or watch a match.

On a humorous note, I keep asking Paul Sizemore, who was fighting in my division, when our matches will start. His answer is always the same, “I don’t know but it’s coming up quick.”

Then the overhead speaker blared out the call to assemble our division in the bullpen. I give John Carlquist my gym bag and follow the other competitors into the bullpen. I started to get nervous but I also feel excited and ready!

I am not waiting long before I hear my name called to weigh in and be escorted by the official to my match area. I walk up to the scale and weigh in. Then I am ushered over to the mat closes to the bullpen. I relax and remember my strategy. When I step onto the mat I see my opponent Marcelo Braga waiting for me. The referee brings us together and I shake hands with Marcelo and then the ref signals for the match to begin. My first actions are tentative, then I refocus and immediately grip up with Marcelo and jump guard. He sits down and I immediately start taking out his gi lapel to work a sweep or a submission. Marcelo grabs the gi out of my hand and starts to pass my guard with his hands on my belt. As he begins to work the pass, I get my hands and cup them behind his right elbow, I am intending to work an arm drag. Braga continues bracing his hands in my belt and I began to pull forward bringing my knees to my chest but keeping both my hands cupped behind his right elbow. Cupping Braga’s elbow puts a lot of pressure on his wrist and as he comes toward me this puts intense pressure on his wrist. The next thing I hear is Braga screaming, “aahhhhh.” I immediately let go of his elbow. I look up at the referee who then stands both of us up and raises my hand in victory. I am pretty surprised that this initial victory is so fast but super pumped too

I know I will be competing again soon so I go and wait in the bullpen and try to relax until my name is called.

“Edmunds, Eddie, Edmunds, Eddie, please report to the arena entrance.” I wait for the announcers voice again.

“Ribeiro, Saulo, Ribeiro, Saulo please report to the arena entrance.” ‘I bet Saulo is already there,’ I think to myself. Even though they have called my name, I sit in the bullpen unmoving and quiet. I feel calm and centered and those were two attributes I would certainly need for my next opponent. Besides, Saulo can wait a little, I silently chuckle. His reputation in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grappling isn’t small. He is a 6 time World Mundial Champion and a 2 time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion. He is also very technical and has been throwing guys all day with his Judo. I wish I had one more opponent before Saulo. I feel a small twinge of nervousness in my stomach, but that’s the luck of the draw. I hear my name called again. I stand up, slowly walk to the arena entrance, show the official my id and I am ushered over to the mat where I just saw Kron Gracie submit Otavio Sousa.

As I step on the mat, I see Saulo is already there. He is standing on the mat perimeter and is staring downward, unmoving and intense. I stretch a little and mentally review my strategy, which is simple: Pull closed guard and give him hell. The referee motions us together, signals the match to begin and I look for an opening to jump guard but Saulo, perhaps sensing my intent keeps shifting to one side and the other.

Saulo starts reaching out, trying to grab my lapel. I avoid his several attempts but as I retreat from his advances, my physical actions remove me mentally from my game plan. Instead of focusing on my getting the closed guard, I am now retreating and my only thoughts are defending Saulo’s aggressive attack. Finally Saulo gets a firm grip on my gi and lightning fast, slams into me attempting a hip throw. Instinctively, I drop my hips, lock my arms around Saulo and attempt a suplex

In my mind’s eye, as I remember that moment, it feels like I launch Saulo high in the air. But, after seeing the video I kind of chuckle because although I did throw Saulo, it wasn’t the kind of elevated suplex I imagined.

Eddie Edmunds throwing Saulo

As I complete the throw, Saulo and I end up in half-guard. He immediately positions himself to pass and I try and keep my grips on both his legs to prevent him from passing. Then he stands up and I sit up with him attempting to establish the sit-up guard. But each time I attempt to put my foot on his back leg, setting up a sweep, Saulo kicks his leg back deflecting my efforts. Then we briefly go back to half guard until he passes to the mount. After Saulo establishes mount he immediately attempts the cross choke. I make a basic mistake by not locking Saulo’s attacking hand when he goes for the cross choke but I still defend his submission attack. Saulo attempts the choke again, this time his physical pressure and strength is intensified. Finally, he gets his hands positioned correctly for the choke and tightens his grip again. This time I feel myself going out and I tap. Now way out. (Saulo’s pressure was immense, especially from the mount, when he placed his weight on you, it was just oppressive and you felt like you wanted to give up.)

In my final analysis, I was pleased with my training for the Mundials and the results I got there. Reviewing both my matches, I never expected my first one with Marcelo Braga to be so quick. I guess I was fortunate that Braga grabbed my belt and I went for a wristlock and caught him. In addition, I learned that even though I felt very relaxed before my match with Saulo, once the match began I started to get tense and my actions weren’t aggressive or as assertive as I wanted them to be. I would have preferred to leave the mat exhausted, but his tactics broke my game plan, I became passive and I couldn’t get that focus back. And finally, after reflecting on my several failed attempts to jump guard on Saulo, I realize I gave up too fast. I needed to stay patient and stick to my plan. Overall, I loved my experience at the Mundials and hope they have it in Long Beach again.