You Don’t Have to Be A Natural Athlete to Become a Jiu Jitsu World Champion
Case in point - Victor Hugo.
Since coming to the US from Brazil in 2016, Victor has made a name for himself, winning at many major tournaments and events. You’ve probably heard of him by now. In fact, “in mid-2020 he was ranked as the Number 1 pound-for-pound Gi fighter in the world by FloGrappling,” and has amassed several wins since that, clearly backing up their listing.
But he didn’t always see himself as the champion he’s become. Surprisingly, “[a]s a child Hugo played a number of sports, from football (soccer), to basketball, swimming, judo and more, but never connected with any of those, feeling he lacked the athleticism to push those forward.”
It wasn’t until July of 2011 that he discovered jiu jitsu, when he and his father joined a new local gym, Day Bu Kan Academy (DBK), under instructor Rocard Costa.
He says he “started jiu jitsu looking for something where [he] was going to be embraced and able to train without any expectations besides [his] very own.”
The following is an excerpt from a 2019 interview with BJJ Heroes:
“What made me fall in love with jiu jitsu was that it didn’t require any natural skills or athleticism. I saw that , by coming to class and putting in the time, I was evolving, a little bit at a time.”
The combination of feeling like he was free to have his own ambitions in the sport, and feeling like he could continue to improve despite a lack of natural athleticism, kept him coming back to training day after day. This dedication paid off, when, in 2016, he traveled to the United States to compete in the IBJJF World Championship. After winning titles at purple belt in both the weight and absolute divisions, he was offered a scholarship through the Ribeiro Brothers’ University of Jiu-Jitsu, which would allow him to train and compete full time.
Victor’s success would only trend upwards from there. As a brown belt in 2019 he became the first, and so far only, person to achieve the Grand Slam in both his weight and the absolute division, winning at IBJJF Worlds, the Pan Ams, Brazilian Nationals, and Europeans. He also faced off against other top competitors such as Tommy Langaker, Fabio Alano, and Kaynan Duarte at invitational tournaments like Spyder Invitational and Copa Podio.
He was promptly awarded his black belt from the Ribeiro Brothers in 2019. As a fresh black belt in 2020, he defeated greats such as Nicholas Meregali, Felipe Andrew, Roberto Jimenez, and Gabriel Albeida.
As jiu jitsu continues to re-awaken following the setbacks of the past few years, we’re sure to see more titles added to Victor’s already impressive list of accomplishments.
How Understanding Your Body Type Can Lead to Greater Success
Victor has never been blissfully unaware that he is a larger dude. In many previous sports he’s tried, his size has been a major obstacle for him. However, in jiu jitsu, he’s found what works for him, for his body type, and has run with it.
Of this he says: “Since the start of my journey I always had in mind that if I was well rounded [I] would be way harder to beat, because of how unpredictable my game would be. That being said, I’m very well known for having a dynamic game for a guy that weighs 260lbs. I use a lot of movement on my passing, and have a lot of submissions from my guard. But my favorite things to teach are the small details that usually are forgotten that make a huge difference when trying to apply any technique or game.”
He began teaching jiu jitsu as a purple belt, and has since had various opportunities to teach both in other countries, and for online sites like Jiu Jitsu X. He actually recommends learning via online courses as a “new tool” which “makes the evolution process” of training “even faster.”
Victor currently has three courses available here on Jiu Jitsu X, where you can speed up your own learning process.
Big Man Flow is essentially the course Victor wished he had when he first started out as a heavy weight competitor. For a while, he struggled with being slower and having less endurance and mobility than his lighter competitors. This course contains the best ways he’s discovered to counter his own natural disadvantages. In it, you will learn:
How to move like a light weight grappler
But still CRUSH like a heavy weight
Guard options for heavy weight competitors
A big man flow approach to passing guard
And much more!
Victor’s 50/50 Manual explores the position that helped him against higher belts when he was coming up through the ranks: the 50/50, of course. You’ll learn all about how to get to the 50/50, AND how to use it effectively for more than just stalling. We’re talking dominating and sweeping your unsuspecting opponent!
Finally, you have Upside Down World. If you’re a frustrated heavy weight who has been swayed away from modern dynamic guards and told they won’t work well for you, fret no more! Watch this course and you’ll be able to pass, sweep, take the back, and submit from these guards with no problem:
De la riva
Reverse de la riva
The upside down guard
Victor sees teaching as a way to “give back by sharing what [he has] learned during the 11 years” he’s practiced jiu jitsu. Besides winning championships, one of his main goals is to inspire people and help them have a positive experience with jiu jitsu, mentioning that he would hate to see anyone give up on jiu jitsu before they’ve had a full experience with it. If you’re a larger person struggling to find what works for you, these courses might just be the key to success and enjoyment that you’ve been needing.
Reflecting on when he first started training, Victor talks about how he was “very uncoordinated, not strong, and overweight.” He’s able to empathize with practitioners who are starting their journey without a built-in athleticism, and teaches from that perspective.
One Redditor who has had the opportunity to train with Victor says: “I train with Victor quite a bit and I can tell you that he has some of the most impressive jiu jitsu I’ve ever seen, big man or small. One other thing to note that I really love about Victor’s game is that he’s a true blend of old school and new. His time spent with Saulo and Xande [Ribeiro] really shows with his fundamentals and pressure, but he’s a totally different beast all together, with tons of new school flavor. He takes the best from both worlds. It’s really impressive.”
There’s No Time Like the Present
Victor’s three courses collectively contain FIFTEEN FREE TECHNIQUES, so there’s really no reason to wait. You can start learning from the big man right now!
You can also keep up with him on his Instagram page, and follow the progress of his clothing line, aptly also titled BigManFlow.