EXCLUSIVE | Ricardo Almeida On Latest BJJ Competition, Coaching TUF & More
Former UFC fighter, Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida (13-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC), found some free time to visit with the guys of BJPENN.COM’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio recently, giving some insight on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and his recent competition in the World No Gi Championship.
Walking off the mat in order to complete the interview, Ricardo spoke on a number of topics that related to his desire to stay competitive, even though he’s spent most of time lately wearing a number of different hats with regards to competition. One of which is his time moonlighting as an MMA judge in the state of New Jersey.
Speaking on the No-Gi Championship itself, he’s seen a great transition between the athletes of yesteryear versus those that are competing today, saying, “Some of the kids nowadays come up with new techniques all the time…becoming more and more well-rounded.”
He then elaborated on the specifics of what he saw, “In the no-gi world championships we saw a lot of the guys really taking a more wrestling approach, more takedowns and pulling guard. Today was much better overall to watch than earlier.”
Almeida, though competitive in this year’s competition, did say he wasn’t as prepared as he has been in the past, however, and that may have contributed to the mental and emotional aspects of his desire to compete. After a recent injury to his brother (who attended the matches in a wheelchair after recently having ACL surgery), Ricardo had attention on more than just submitting or besting his opponent.
“For the first time…I’m kind of scared of getting hurt. I’m older now. I have two schools to run. I have my kids to raise. It was definitely a new experience to be out there really concerned about my health after the fight,” he said soon after his match.
“Fighting in the UFC, you just give it all and you’re not worried. It happens so fast and it’s like a rollercoaster ride. But in jiu jitsu it is very tactical, so today I was really rusty. I felt like a rust bucket – also very concerned about getting hurt.”
When prodded about the revelations he made regarding his ability to balance so many different aspects of his life, Ricardo continued, “From the first day I stepped my foot on the mats, I’ve always loved technique. I’ve loved learning and studying…where the sport is going. I still try to keep myself in the game on that, but as far as me being able to compete with the guys in the adult division is tough. It’s hard for me to dedicate the time to get in the kind of shape that I need to be in for the adult division in jiu jitsu. If I’m going to do that, I might as well fight in MMA.”
“Big Dog” did amass a respectable record in the UFC, competing against some of the biggest names at the time, and making himself known among the sport’s elite. However, today he doesn’t feel the same confidence in his abilities to stay at the top of his game, especially with the myriad of projects he has going on.
He addressed the question of ever being able to step into the Octagon again by repeating, “The hardest thing is to reset your own meter, ‘Am I ready or not?’ The benchmark I have for myself is, ‘Am I ready to compete in the UFC?’”
And continued, “I haven’t really been training – I train every day. I’m on the mats, rolling, doing some type of strength and conditioning – but it’s not the same type of training that it is to be in MMA and to be in the UFC.”
He does, though, see how it can inspire both students and fans of the sport to continue training, seeing some of their favorite athletes get on the mat in order to go after their dreams. “I feel like every time we get out there and we get in shape and we cut weight and we compete – it’s keeping you active, and win or lose everyone around you becomes inspired you setting goals and working towards it. I go out there and I’m doing some of the things I’ve been doing since I was fifteen-years-old.”
He does admit that his age and inability to focus all of his energies on training have made him look to his skill-set as a fighter rather than simply being in-shape on top of his black belt ownership, admitting, “I have to rely a little more on technique and less on physical conditioning (than before).”
And for those who are still wanting to know if there is a purpose to all of the training in BJJ, Almeida gives the following advice, “Jiu jitsu is so well-suited not only for kids, but for adults too. Some people might think it’s not realistic and it might not work in self-defense – but because we don’t have the punches and kicks, we have to go 100-percent. It’s really effective for urban and suburban America to learn. Using a submission hold without having to crank it all the way…you can take a person down and submit them without punching them in the face.”
After speaking with the boys for a while on jiu jitsu, Ricardo did talk a little about being on the latest season of “The Ultimate Fighter” as a part of Frankie Edgar’s team who’s competing against Team BJ Penn in the lead-up to their bout.
“Frankie has been my student for almost six years now. The whole thing happened when BJ Penn called Dana White and wanted to fight Frankie,” he said, “He thought that Frankie was the best fighter at that weight class. Frankie is a jiu jitsu coach for 5-1/2 years, and with my responsibilities with my two schools and my kids, I couldn’t be there for the entire time, but I was there for the first ten days and then the last three weeks, so it’s been a pretty interesting experience.”
With regard to changing his coaching style after having only a short amount of time to work with the TUF crowd, “I’ve gotten kind of used to it. I can’t really train them like a jiu jitsu student – that’s a very specific drilling at an extremely high level, working on offense and defense, takedowns – most of these things that I work with Frankie and the guys are geared mostly geared towards MMA. You just strip down about 70-75% sports jiu jitsu techniques. We try to simplify the guards, defensive stuff, and then to offensive stuff. My goal is to immediately cover all of the basic points.”
“Rather than try to show them fluff,” He continued, “I just cover the danger points – if you can’t keep them from turtling or giving their back, all of your work goes out the window.”
It certainly appears that “Big Dog” has not only kept himself competitive after retiring from MMA in 2011, but has maintained himself as a respected trainer and coach for former champion Edgar, giving his team enough technique and confidence that they have found some success in the UFC’s televised tournament on “The Ultimate Fighter”
We can certainly expect more from Almeida as he gives his knowledge to more athletes in the future, as well, building a resume while also helping others to reach their goals to become some of the best competitors in the world.
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