Abu Dhabi has been introduced the grappling world through ADCC. But one man, helped make Abu Dhabi become more than just a name of an event, he built it up to become a Mecca of BJJ. After spending years in Abu Dhabi, BTT Black Belt Carlos “Carlao” Santos, has now left Abu Dhabi and returned to Brazil. In a recent interview with Grappling Weekly, Carlao tells us of how he ended up where he is today, what he did for the sport and the future of Carlos Santos and Professional BJJ.
GW: First off Carlao, tell the Grappling Weekly readers a bit about your background before you went to Abu dhabi?
CS:I started training on the famous Carlson Gracie Academy in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. I stayed there until I got my brown belt and I won 3 world champoinships with blue, purple and brown belts. Then I moved to the BTT Academy in 2000/2001, where I got my black belt and I was responsible for the Kimono BTT team.
GW: So, how and when did you end up teaching in Abu Dhabi?
CS:In January 2002 I went to Abu Dhabi for the first time. The BTT made an agreement with the ADCC club, to send one different black belt teacher to teach there for one month. On my second chance, in August 2002, the ADCC asked me to stay for more 6 months; that end up in 9 years.
GW: How did the Abu Dhabi World Pro come about?
CS: Since I first arrived there, I wanted to make the BJJ professional. That was a hard work until I get the government support. I always loved the Jiu-Jitsu competitions. Then I saw so many great athletes leaving the sport because they had no support or money prizes. So I thought that with the Abu Dhabi government support I would be able to make a great event, with good money prizes, to attract the biggest names of the sport. And now it’s done!
GW: Can you tell the people the major differences between ADCC and the Abu Dhabi World Pro organizations.
CS: The ADCC is a no gi event organized by H.H. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan. The World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup is a kimono event created by me with the support of H.H. Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al Nahyan, the Crowne Prince of Abu Dhabi and older brother of H.H. Sheikh Tahnoon. The World Pro has the normal jiu-Jitsu rules, the main difference is the time of te fights that is 6 minutes, for being more dynamic for the spectators and the tv.
GW: Alot of people became very confused in North America regarding the ADCC and Abu Dhabi World Pro. They were calling each tournament ADCC gi, or Abu Dhabi Pro etc….What suggestions do you have for solving this common problem?
One suggestion we have heard is to have the ADCC competition one year, than the World Pro the following year to avoid the confusion.
CS: The names are completely different, ADCC and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup. And I think that proper information were really easy to find to avoid any confusion. About having the events in different years, it’s not a good idea. That would be a loss for the sport that grows every year!
This is my opinion, and I hope the new organizers keep the World Pro every year.
GW: Looking back, if you could do anything differently, what would you have done?
CS: I would have done all my deals in a firm contract and trusted less on people’s word.
GW: What accomplishment in Abu Dhabi are you most proud of?
CS: The project Shcool-Jitsu, that made our sport mandatory discipline in more than 40 public schools. It shows the value of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in education.
GW: Where do you see Jiu-Jitsu going in ten years and how do you feel your work and contribution has affected the Sport, not just in the UAE but in the world?
CS: I hope to see a Jiu-Jitsu World Tour as we see with Surf and F1. That was my idea when I created the World Pro and I will continue To work hard on this purpose.
GW: What do you think the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has to do in order to become either a professional or Olympic level sport?
CS: The actual Sport’s management need to develop the marketing and the politician areas. The events need more advertisement in big medias. The World Federation should promote their events and the champions not only in specialized medias, that would bring more private and government sponsors.
GW: You recently announced your departure from Abu Dhabi publicly. Can you tell us about your decision to leave Abu Dhabi and also where will you go from here?
CS: Over the past year things have changed a lot in Abu Dhabi. I was the one who had all the ideas and made them all come true. But after Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu became too famous and many Sheiks showed their appreciation for the Sport, the “friends” just changed side. Some of the people that I invited to work there got involved with some Arabs and they took me out of the game. I waited a little but nothing has changed. And now the“good friend” is in control. I hope they don’t let my legacy die.
I am considering some other opportunities like Qatar, Saudi, Jordan, Canada, USA.
At the moment i am in Brazil, taking some time off, but soon I will be working on a book: Carlão, Sheikhs & Jiu-jitsu to tell everything about the 9 years I stayed in the UAE
I have done my job and now I am opened for new opportunities to continue fighting for the profissionalization of our Sport.