Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa: Competitor, Teacher, Leader

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Feb 2, 2017 2:45:00 PM

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Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa is one of the more important jiu-jitsu figures to have popped up in the last decade, not just because of his competitive skill but also his ability to gather top athletes and be a leader for his influential team. The ability to lead and organize has been crucial to jiu-jitsu’s growth in the last few decades. While competitors and athletes do a great job of spreading the sport internally, it is the organization leaders, like Formiga, that arrange gyms and organizations to discover and raise new athletes and jiu-jitsu fans.

When it comes to competition, Formiga, meaning “ant” in Portuguese, is the 2011 New York Open champion and the 2002 Brazilian national champion amongst many other high-level competition medals. However, one of Formiga’s greatest achievements was co-creating the Soul Fighters jiu-jitsu team that brought together some of the best athletes in the sport.

Formiga is a Rio de Janeiro native who started jiu-jitsu at the young age of 11 after he saw Royce Gracie in the UFC. He then began his training with Andre ‘Dedeco,’ and after some years of hard mat time Formiga received his black belt from him at the age of 19 - a great age to really continue to train and develop his black belt skills. It is indeed very fortunate for someone to earn their black belt so early. They are able to gain experience competing in the adult division at black belt, which becomes physically harder for those who earn their black belts after the age of 30. This fortune gave Formiga plenty of time to hone his skills as with many other early black belts.

Six years later, Formiga and some of his friends, including world champion Augusto ‘Tanquinho” Mendes, joined forces to create the Soul Fighters team which would be a collaboration of several teams coming together to give everyone involved a better training atmosphere. Very often when a team is small and everyone trains together often, teammates begin to know each others’ games so well that they do not have a chance to practice against different body types and styles. When several teams unite, they are able to test their skills in a non-competitive environment. Going to competition is nice but the preparation for serious competition is heavy and can also cause serious injury. This way, people can train without any of these problems.

The school that Formiga and his friends opened was a great success and still runs out of Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro – a nice family area of town near the core of the city. The team also spread across the world with several affiliates and attracted top athletes like Osvaldo Queixinho, Manuel Diaz, Joao Gabriel Rocha, Diogo Araujo, and many others.

Eventually Formiga’s instructor made the move to the United States in 2005 and extended a similar invitation to him. It took some time for Formiga to think about it because of his commitments and love for his country, but ultimately he took the opportunity to move and teach in the gym in Connecticut.

 Some recent accomplishments, among many others, include:

2016 NY IBJJF Spring Open Championship- Master 1 Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2016 IBJJF Pan American Championship- Master 1 Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2016 IBJJF Pan American Championship- Master 1 Open Division- 2nd Place

2015 U.S. Open- Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 U.S. Open- Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 World Master Championship- Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 World Master Championship- Open Weight division- 2nd Place

2015 Boston IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 Boston IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 NY IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

2015 NY IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

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Topics: Pro BJJ Players and Superfights

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