This week 30 members of the Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy from Albuquerque will participate in the World International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championship in Long Beach, California. Among them will be professional mixed martial artist and BJJ instructor Rafael “Barata” Freitas.
The 125lb flyweight class is the lightest recognized by the unified rules of mixed martial arts for males. You might think that Albuquerque’s MMA flyweight and BJJ black belt Rafael “Barata” Freitas would not have an issue making the 126.5 lb Roosterweight limit for the upcoming tournament.
That’s until you take the following into consideration: a participant must weigh in at 126.5lb or less with a gi on, making the weight cut a little rougher than what the 125lb MMA flyweights are accustomed to.
A typical BJJ gi can weigh anywhere from 1.3 kilograms (2.87 lbs) to 2.8 kgs (6.2 lb) which means the most you can weigh sans the gi is 123.63 lbs.
The weigh-ins at these types are tournaments differ greatly from the traditional process in boxing and MMA.
Once a participant is called up to be weighed it is do or die. If they weigh over the limit, they are disqualified on the spot; no time for a last run, no bathroom break, no bargaining or the giving up 20% of their purse as they do in professional combat sports.
“We have to check our weight as soon as they call our name. They check our weight, if we’re good, we go ahead and fight,” says Freitas. “The same way I feel there, I’m sure all my opponents are feeling the same with the dieting and starvation.”
Commonly known as the Mundials, the four-day World IBJJ Championships have been held at California State University since 2007 and draw up to 12,000 spectators.
This the 12th world championship tournament the 28-year-old Freitas will be participating in. He is very familiar with the strenuous training and weight cut regiments having gone through the process since the age of 16.
“I’m sure this is going to be one of my last (IBBJ tournaments),” says Freitas. “I’m going to be dedicated only to my MMA. I’ve already accomplished to get to the top of my level of my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu career. Now it’s time to get there with my MMA career.”
In 2007 Freitas calling, literally, to the United States was via a close friend named Roberto “Tussa” Alencar. A former 3-time NoGi world champion himself, Alencar would help Freitas prepare for and take the World NoGi 2007 Pan American Games Brown Belt championship.
Growing up in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, Freitas says that he was told by his master’s that he could have a good life through jiu-jitsu but the general public voiced a different sentiment toward those that practiced the art and did MMA.
“In Brazil it’s kind of hard (BJJ) doesn’t really have any value,” he says. “If you say that you’re a fighter there (you will have people say) ‘Come on man, you have to go back to school’, but we always believed that we could do it. We knew to have a good life through teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would be to leave the country.”
Despite his high caliber pedigree in BJJ, many are unaware that Freitas came up with a strong stand-up background. His fluid movements can be attributed to capoeira, his solid base to karate; throw in a little bit of Tae-Kwon Do and Muay Thai training and you have an undefeated mixed martial artist with a 5 and 0 record.
Interview with Rafael “Barata” Freitas
The Famed Barataplata
There are very few fighters that have a move named after them. Most of the moves and positions are made popular by fighters who then have their names attached to them due their ability to effectively execute them. For example: Eddie Bravo popularizing the “twister” and Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba’s “Sakuraba Hammerfists”.
Other moves are innovations named after their practitioners despite the fact they may not have been the ones to invent them; D’Arce Choke (Joe D’Arce), Kimura named after judo great Masahiko Kimura.
Then you have Rafael de Freitas’ “Barataplata”. The move has stumped even many of the members of the Gracie family. It has been described by some as, half an omoplata combined with a bicep crush; a Pervuian Necktie on the bicep. In the record books however it goes down as a “Modified Omoplata”. To describe it in it’s most basic sense it’s a reverse key-lock applied with the legs and one of the arms.
During an episode of Inside MMA while doing play by play of a highlight of Freitas second career fight, legendary Dutch fighter Bas Rutten described the move as an “omo- triangle choke, holy smokes.”
The possibility of seeing such a rare move is the main attraction for all of Barata’s contests.