Leonardo Delgado: From Corporate World to Full Time Jiu-Jitsu Competitor/Instructor

Leonardo Delgado: From Corporate World to Full Time Jiu-Jitsu Competitor/Instructor



Leonardo Delgado is an accomplished BJJ competitor from Soul Fighters, Rio de Janeiro who is chasing his dreams of living from BJJ full time. Up to recently Leo was living the corporate life working full time as a manager in a multinational company to competing and teaching full time. His path has taken him to the USA where he wants to establish himself.

Leo spoke to BJJEE about his BJJ journey: 

1. Leo, what made you decide to focus your life on Jiu-Jitsu, instead of going the more conventional road of a regular job etc..?

Well, I think it took too long until I could take this decision. I started to train when I was 14 years old and was love at the first roll, but life circumstances made me go a long long way to reach this moment. From 1996 till 2013 I studied Philosophy and Business Administration, worked as Mac Donald’s attendant, waiter, call center attendant, HR intern, Finance intern, Marketing Manager in a big multinational, always coming in and out BJJ, because I neither have money or time to train, or sometimes, both. But what I always wanted, was to come back to training.
Then, in 2013, I decided to quit my job in this multinational seeking to improve my quality of life; paving the way back to BJJ. I started a small franchise business with an old friend, and decided to come back immediately to BJJ and promised myself that I’d never stop again. What I’m trying to tell is: I actually made my way to this moment; the moment that I would be able to live what I love, the ‘Jiu-Jitsu life’.

2. Please tell us about how it is to train at Soul fighters in Rio de Janeiro?

Oh man, it’s great. We’re not the biggest or the greatest team yet, but I can tell you that we have all the ingredients to become in the future. We have so many talents there, every training session is a war. The competition team training is sick. Nowadays, the Head Coach in Rio is Leandro Escobar “Tatu” , a very experienced fighter and coach (the other founders Tank, his brother Tanquinho and Rafael Formiga are here in U.S. with the mission to spread our team’s name and build more talents). We train together since I was a blue belt, he gave me my black belt and more than my master, he is a great friend. His capacity to lead and breed our young talents is amazing and with the help of the other coaches I believe we are in the right way to become a top 3 team in BJJ scenario.


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3. Please tell us more about your 2014 season where you competed 12 times. How was the training, diet, strength and conditioning etc..

In April 2013 I started to train again and what I wanted the most was to compete again. So, I started to do regular Strength and Conditioning sessions, diet under a sports specialised nutritionist and train hard, of course. But 2013 wasn’t a good year. I made some podiums, but no golds. So, in 2014, I decided to make a few changes I believe I had to. First, I changed my diet and went from Heavy to medium heavy weight class. I really changed my alimentary habits: started to see food as a mean to an end, fuel for a machine. Also, I increased the amount and variety of supplements. My new nutritionist at this point was essential, she changed my body, my health and my performance. My S&C coaches did a great job as well. In the middle of the year I joined a new S&C team and had impressive results in my performance too. I started to work with Olympic weightlifting, periodization training system and I believe that helped me a lot in this year’s season results. But, the biggest move I think I made it’s about the mindset. I realised that a champion has to have a victorious mindset, so I started to train, feel and pushing myself like a professional athlete and Tatu and all my team were essential at this point, always cheering for me, pushing me during the trainings and always by my side in the tournaments. And it paid off: 2014 – 12 tournaments, 10 podiums with 6 golds, including my 2nd Brazilian Nationals NoGi Championship.

4. Tell us more about your new adventure in the USA

Well, I consider more as a life move. I came for good, to stay. I’m training and teaching some classes in Andre Maneco BJJ Gym (affiliated to Soul Fighters as Soul Fighters Chicago), with Andre Maneco, one of the most decorated teachers in town. I met him in January during the Europeans and in March when I came to Chicago for the IBJJF Spring Open, we became friends. I told him that I wanted to move to the U.S. and he opened his doors for me. He’s an incredible guy, big heart, and a great coach too. He’s Carlson’s sr student, passionate about Jiu-Jitsu and he’s helping me a lot in this transition. Here I hope to win many titles, open my own gym and start to write my name in BJJ’s history.




5. How would you describe your game?

The way that I feel more comfortable is playing half-guard. I developed ways to keep myself safe in this position, while I can try to figure out what the opponent is trying to do so I can anticipate my move and sweep. I initiated in martial arts in Judo, what provided me a good standing game, with a few good takedowns and a really good basis on top. Passing guard, I can describe my game as a smashing one. I don’t like to give any space to the guy on the bottom.

6. What is your teaching style?

I believe that I’m still developing my style. I try to use the best teaching skills of my past and present coaches. I like to make sure that the basics are well provided, to bring some motivational and aspirational thoughts for the students, making them realize that hard work pays off and many times can beat talent. I also believe that progression works different in each individual and it’s important to respect this individuality.

7. How do you view the growth of Jiu-Jitsu in the USA?

I see it as a natural result, given the amount of people who moved from Brazil to here in order to live from and for Jiu-Jitsu. How many talented fighters, teachers moved here in order to have a better life and give a good life to their families? These guys are responsible for the sport’s growth, not only in size but in quality as well. And the proof of that is the amount of american talents we have in the BJJ currently. And I feel glad now I can be part of this growth.

8. What is next for you in 2015/16?

Because of the move to the U.S., I didn’t compete very much so far. But now it’s time to catch up: I already competed in New York (took 2nd in my division) and my next tournaments are The Chicago Summer Open Gi and NoGi (August 15th and 16th), Boston International Open (August 22nd) and Atlanta Summer Open (August 29th and 30th). I always try to give preference to IBJJF tournaments because it’s the best recognized organization but my main goal now is the Metamoris North American Challenger (September 11-13). It’s my first time in a event with this kind of rules (10 minutes, sub only, everything but slamming is legal) and I’m very excited for the possibility of a cash prize, a pro contract with Metamoris and a spot in the International event next year. I’m trying to improve my game with some wrestling and I believe I’ll be able to do a great job in the event. Also, I’ll focus my efforts to win two big tournaments in the first half of 2016: the IBJJF Panamerican and the Abu Dhabi World Pro. I consider myself very blessed for all the things that are happening and all the things I know the future holds for me. And this is only possible because I have many good people around, supporting me: My girlfriend Thaís Araújo who’s my biggest motivator and now is also my S&C coach in partnership with Marcus Costa, my coach in Brazil; Brazil Combat, my Gi sponsor that even in here is taking care of me with high quality gear; my family in Brazil who prays everyday for my success; Andre Maneco, who opened his doors for me and all his students that are giving me a hard time in the training; and of course my Soul Fighters friends, because without them I wouldn’t have gotten here.