Written by Michael Sergi.
He was known as just Roberto Abreu back in early 2000. A tough blue belt that loved to compete and hungry to be a world class bjj black belt. Just four short months after having been in a horrific car accident that was to leave him with having to give up the sport he loved he went on to take 2nd in the Brazilian Nationals. That’s when it all changed.
Roberto already knew, and now everyone else does too, that he was still on a path to accomplish his jiu-jitsu goals. But how could he. How could Roberto from the Brazilian country side make such a quick come back? How could he make a come back at all? It wasn’t normal. It’s like he’s some kind of a machine or mythological figure. A BJJ player of his size with the quickness of a feather weight, the technical ability of someone raised in Rio and playing on the mats from infancy, and the power and pressure of a super super heavy weight. “Cyborg” could be an understatement.
Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu: I was addicted to sports since I was little. I have always participated in some kind of sport. I have done everything from swimming, where I was multiple time state champ, to all kinds of martial arts like judo, karate and capoeira. I was born and raised in the country side of Brazil. I always had a pretty rough attitude and loved to fight. One day a friend of mine that was really skinny asked me to fight him at a party. I couldn’t believe it. I laughed at him and told him he was too small for me to fight. The next thing I knew he submitted me many times. I didn’t understand what all of that was. I had never seen BJJ before. After the fight I really got excited to learn that stuff. I made him take me to his gym and that was it. I fell in love with the Gentle Art. I was still 17, but I won my first tournament in the adult heavy weight division with 2 weeks of training. I got my black belt in 5 years. Now after 12 years of training I can only see how good BJJ has been for my life!”
BJJ LegendsTM: You had a bad accident early in your jiu jitsu career, which nearly caused you to have to give the sport up. Can you tell us more about that?
RA: It was back in 2000 when I was still a blue belt. I was in a car accident and my car flipped many times. I got thrown out the car and the car landed on me. It shattered my left arm giving me 300 stitches. There was lots of glass and debris inside my arm. The doctors said I wouldn’t be able to move my arm again. Four months after the accident I took 2nd at the Brazilian Nationals. My coach at the time was Isaias and he said that I must have been a cyborg to make a come back like I did in such a short time. The name Cyborg suited me well and it stuck with me.”
BJJ LegendsTM:You have a very unique style and you’ve been noted as creating the tornado guard. How did you develop the position?
RA: I started doing my tornado guard when I still was a blue belt. I was always really creative with my training. My natural flexibility also helped me a lot in doing different moves. I was always trying plastic moves. One day I pulled out a sweep from half guard that I didn’t understand, but felt really cool. After that I began playing that style more. Since then, it was my main weapon. No one at that level understood what I was doing. When I got my purple belt in 2002 I opened my first school and named it Fight Sports in my home town of Campo Grande MS. Most of my students were smaller than me and pretty much all white belts. I had to let them move in order for me to have some good training. It helped me a lot in loosening up my game. Today many people say I move like a feather weight. I love to train with smaller guys and try to beat them on speed. Jiu jitsu for me has to be cool and fun. I always try to improve my mobility and balance. Playing top or bottom.
BJJ LegendsTM: What are you thoughts on gi vs no-gi training. Can the gi make you a better no-gi grappler?
RA: I love to train Jiu jitsu – period! I used to train only in the gi, but when I got my black belt I started training no-gi. I fell in love with it. But truly, I like the gi better.
Most of my classes, especially for beginners are with the gi on. You can not learn BJJ without putting the gi on. For sure they complement each other. Training with the gi on is like running in the sand. It’s harder to move because of the grips, but when you take the gi off you fly. The same happens the other wayaround. No-gi training helps you tighten your game. To be a complete grapplers you must do both.
BJJ LegendsTM: You also have a very solid wrestling background. You were a national team member for Brazil. How did you get into wrestling?
RA: I have always had a lot of talent for take downs. I won the Brazilian Nationals of wrestling without ever having seen a wrestling match before. After that I fell in love with wrestling and I became part of the national team. Now wrestling is an important part of my schools curriculum. I train it as much as I can.
BJJ LegendsTM: You were finalist at the 2009 ADCC. Were you happy with your performance?
RA: The ADCC is the royal spot for grappling competition and I was very honored to have received the invitation to fight. I worked hard to be at the top of my game with Pablo Popovitch and it was amazing to be in the finals at my first appearance at the tournament. Of course, I wanted the gold, but I was really happy just to be there. Next time I’ll be hunting for the gold.
BJJ LegendsTM: You moved from Brazil to Miami. How long have you been in Florida now?
RA: I moved to Florida 3 years ago and I have made this place my home.
BJJ LegendsTM: Do you have any big plans? What are you working on now?
RA: Today I have 2 awesome gyms here and business is awesome. One of the gyms is called Fight Sports. It’s an awesome 3 story gym located in front of the beach in Miami Beach. This is where I have the Fight Sports Miami Camp – a hotel for people from around the world that want to come and train BJJ with me. The other gym is called Legacyfit and that is where I coach MMA Fighters. It is an amazing facility with strength and conditioning, Muay Thai, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s complete training for MMA. We have a full size ring, an octagon, huge mat space, weights, and everything you need to be an MMA champion. You guys can look for it at legacyfit.com or cyborgbjj.com. Other than that I have been opening associations around the world. I’m sending my black belts everywhere.
Cyborg Fight Sports team is getting stronger each day. I just started a team with my brother Pablo Popovitch called The Avengers BJJ. Pablo and I have been working together for a while. Both of us have strong teams here in Florida and we train together full-time. It has already brought us important titles in pretty much all the bigger tournaments. Now with our fusion the results are going to be even bigger and better. So we built the super heroes of BJJ to destroy the tournaments (he says laughing). It is going to be fun!
BJJ LegendsTM: Tell us about the new team that you formed called The Avengers.
RA: The Avengers is a team formed by myself and my brother Pablo Popovitch. If you’ve ever been a comic book fan, then The Avengers is definitely a series you could never forget. They are defined as “earths mightiest heroes formed to fight the foes no single hero could withstand”. This definition sounds surprisingly close to what’s going on in south Florida these days on the BJJ/grappling circuit. If you could witness the training that takes place at our gyms you would understand how we came up with that name.
Everyone of our guys have an extensive list of titles and accomplishments such as ADCC, World, Pan Am and pro divisions across the world.The Avengers is the only name that accurately fits the assembly of talent we have. When you figure they were the “most prestigious super-hero team in the world” the name is perfect. Not only are these guys talented but their athletic builds also fit the mold perfectly. As 2010 is coming to the final stages of the year, the BJJ/Grappling world will no doubt feel the wrath of The Avengers. It will be history in the making and the start of a great alliance. We have already showed what we have came for.”
BJJ LegendsTM: You and your team have had a great 2010. Can you give us a recap?
RA: The year of 2010 was a gift. I had the blessing of closing out pretty much all of the weight and open classes at many major tournaments with my teammates this year. We won the Grapplers Quest Texas, I had a great fight against Rolles (Gracie), Honolulu Open, Miami Open, the No-Gi Pan-Am’s, and the No-Gi Worlds open classes closing out with Buchecha and Pablo. We also won the team title at the No-Gi Worlds, which was something unbelievable. Our students also won almost every open class at the No-Gi Worlds. Now is time to rest and organize the house. Pablo and I are going to sit and make the plans for next year. I’m really confident the year of 2011 is going to be awesome!
BJJ LegendsTM: That reminds me. Tell us about the choke you used in your match against Stephen Hall at the Miami Open. I’ve never seen anything like that before.
RA: I’ve been using that choke for a long time. As everybody knows I love to move a lot, so I use the knee on the belly a lot to control my opponents. That is a variation that I use applying the knee on my opponents neck and believe it has a lot of pressure. It’s for sure one of my trade marks.
BJJ LegendsTM: Any plans on a seminar tour. If so, when and where?
RA: Thank God my work has been recognized. The tornado guard has had a big impact. I’m really happy and living a dream making my life with BJJ. I didn’t stop the whole year. I traveled a lot doing seminars and it was awesome! I got to train with a lot of different people and got to visit wonderful places with my jiu jitsu adventure. Next year promises a lot. I’ll start in January with a trip to Australia. I’m supposed to have about 12 seminars in 14 days. It will be crazy!
I’ll have another tour in Europe where I expect to go to more than 8 countries. I’ll be in Mexico at some point along with some countries in Asia. Of course, I will be all over the USA. Pablo and I are even going to be conducting some seminars together. We plan on conducting seminars where I teach my guard game and Pablo teaches his wrestling and guard passes, which would be perfect. For sure 2011 is going to come with many good things and many big tournaments. It means a lot of hard work and success!!
BJJ LegendsTM: Is there anything else you would like to mention?
RA: Thanks everyone for the good vibes always!! JIU JITSUUU!!!!