Grapplers Planet: We are with Nova Uniao 3rd Degree Blackbelt, Walber “Tete” Barros, who has won over 15 gold medals in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, including the IBJJF, American Nationals, as well as MMA titles, becoming a 2x Shooto Brasil champion.
Please introduce yourself.
Tete: I was born in Manaus, Amazonas, and started training under Master Andre “Dede” Pederneiras at Nova Uniao as a kid over 20 years ago. Martial Arts quickly became my life, giving me a newfound purpose, and competing and coaching felt like a mission I was born to carry out.
Grapplers Planet: In your experience, what motivates martial artists to pursue pro MMA?
Tete: Every athlete pursues MMA for different reasons, including the thrilling atmosphere, the lucrative nature of some events, or the fun of competing before an excited audience.
Grapplers Planet: What motivates you personally to compete?
Tete: I hope to inspire others through my achievements, both martial artists and those not interested in the sport. Successfully competing and winning a high performance sport represents not only athletic ability, but also the results of unwavering commitment, and overcoming seemingly impossible barriers to achieve goals.
Grapplers Planet: How could athletic achievements relate even to those not interested in the sport?
Tete: In competing, I represent not only myself and my team, Nova Uniao, but in a sense, mankind in general, showing what we as humans are truly capable of, by achieving what seems impossible. My achievements reflect more than athletic ability, but also pushing past limitations that we all experience in different magnitudes throughout our daily lives.
Grapplers Planet: What do you hope viewers will take away from watching you compete?
Tete: In competing, I push myself to maximum athletic capacity, and seek to overcome any notions of impossibility. I hope that my performance can remind others of their own inner strength, and the resilience inside each of us to overcome barriers, even when things seem unbearable.
Grapplers Planet: What was your most notable recent achievement?
Tete: I competed in the BKFC 6 in Tampa, Florida, in June of this year . While it was ruled a unanimous draw, news sources including Yahoo! Sport praised my combinations and domination of the rounds, even saying I “lulled my opponent to sleep.” [laughs]
Grapplers Planet: What did you think of the result?
Tete: I think that staying sportsmanlike, no matter the result is most important, to set an example for others. Everyone, athlete or not, has moments of frustration where we feel powerless over life’s circumstances. Appreciating the opportunities life presents, rather than letting emotions get the best (or worst) of us, helps take back our power over difficult situations.
Grapplers Planet: Was there anything else notable about the event?
Tete: Incredibly, news sources reported that pay-per-view revenue for the event exceeded $8 million, an impressive figure for a new event, surpassing even some UFC bouts. The popularity of these events and potential for economic impact is interesting.
Grapplers Planet: Speaking of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, what experience do you have in the UFC octagon?
Tete: I volunteered as the corner coach for some Nova Uniao athletes for UFC events, including Bantamweight Ketlen Vieira’s UFC on Fox 24 in 2017. I also coached her at Nova Uniao Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first female from the Brazilian state of Manaus to make it to the UFC, Ketlen currently has a 10-0 undefeated pro MMA streak.
Grapplers Planet: What was your training for Ketlen like?
Tete: I trained her to apply pressure on the opponent to find openings to land uppercuts and combinations. We practiced ending striking sequences by transitioning into a clinch to land knees before the opponent could counter. We also practiced varying the speed and level of strikes to keep her game unpredictable; she has incredible hand speed.
We also practiced hooking the opponent’s leg to land takedowns ending in back control. Ketlen is great at getting the opponent against the cage in a clinch, and can also control the match with her striking skills while in the center of the octagon.
Grapplers Planet: How did Ketlen maintain control to win the event despite her opponent’s inside leg kicks?
Tete: I taught her to stay within boxing range to use her upper body strikes and simultaneously avoid the opponent’s inside leg kicks. I also taught her to strike so that her right hand reaches over and around the opponent’s left arm landing in the crease between the arm and the shoulder, contacting the cheekbone.
Grapplers Planet: How was Ketlen’s training different than for other UFC athletes?
Tete: I custom-tailor every fight strategy to best counter the specific opponent. In 2017, I also volunteered as the corner for Thales Leites’ UFC Fight Night. Rather than close the distance by clinching, the strategy focused on keeping the distance to land inside-leg kicks.
The low kicks kept Thales’ opponent from landing close range combinations and countering strikes. I aim to help athletes achieve winning by thinking ahead.
Grapplers Planet: Can you tell us about one final coaching achievement?
Tete: I trained Ronny Markes for his 2011 UFC debut and volunteered as his corner for the event. To prepare him, we practiced using BJJ for the MMA ring, including gaining side control for ground-and-pound.
We also practiced a technique where Ronny controlled the opponent’s wrist with one hand, while securing his other hand in an over-hook. Pressed against the cage, this left the opponent’s side wide open for effective knee strikes.
Ronny does a great single and double-leg takedown. At one point during the 2nd round of his UFC debut, he started a single-leg takedown. He then used his foot to hook the opponent’s other leg, surprising him in transitioning into ground-and pound.
Grapplers Planet: Are you working as a coach now?
Tete: Now I am focused on my athletic career, and only work as a BJJ/MMA competitor, not a coach. While I volunteered to prepare some Nova Uniao competitors for UFC and other professional events, I hope to work as a coach in the future, so I can train more athletes to reach this level.
Grapplers Planet: What is your favorite part of coaching?
Tete: Helping athletes realize that they have what it takes to succeed and reach their goals. I hold the perspective that, if someone out there can achieve it, so can you.
Grapplers Planet: Last Question. You like the phrase, “champion is a mindset.” Why?
Tete: Only by giving our 100% effort to every situation can we realize what we are truly capable of, as athletes and individuals.