ONE Fighting Championship have a policy of recruiting world champions and have fighters on their roster who have already reached the pinnacle of combat sports such as Muay Thai, Wushu, boxing and, of course, BJJ.
The latest BJJ legend to sign with Asia's most prestigious mixed martial art's promotion is Marcos Escobar whose credentials include winning the ADCC Championship alternate tournament in 2001, being named Brazilian Teams Champion twice, Alliance Cup Champion two times, and also finishing as Rio de Janeiro State Champion on two separate ocassions.
He is a familiar face in Asia having been based in Kuala Lumpur for several years where he runs an academy there called Leverage MMA which primarily offers BJJ instruction but is rapidly expanding. However he is now back in Brazil training for his professional MMA debut which will be taking place at ONE Fighting Championship 3 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on March 31st.
The Brazilian, who is of Lebanese descent, believes that his BJJ background will allow him to instantly make the transition to MMA and feels the future of the sport in Asia is looking bright.
When did you start learning BJJ and why?
I started in 1994. Since I was a kid I always liked sports and martial arts and used to train Chinese Boxing and play Waterpolo. I didn't like the attitude of some of the kids who use to train BJJ at that time, so I decided to learn and start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu then I could maybe fight some of them in competitions.
Is there a reason that you didn't decide to start doing MMA sooner?
MMA is not something new in Brazil like it is in other countries. I used to train MMA a long time ago and was preparing myself for a MMA debut in 2001, after the ADCC tournement, when I had my motorcycle accident. Then my life turned over, I had to stop competing for one year and had to make a living and start working. Life moved on and I didn't fight MMA but kept up with Jiu Jitsu.
How long have you been working on your standup for?
I used to train some boxing at "Nobre Arte" in Rio de Janeiro when I was preparing to debut in MMA and then after my accident I stopped doing it as often and kept at it on and off. Now I'm intensifying a lot my training and my striking not only at Nova Uniao MMA but often visiting the best boxing gym in Rio - Delfim Boxe.
Why did you decide to go back to Brazil and who have you been working with while you are there?
I often come back home to train when time and money allow me to. This is not the first time I have done it but this time, knew I had a chance to debut at ONE FC so I tried to arrange my schedule to come back and be able to train here. I have my physical trainer Itallo Vilardo who helps with my conditioning, and for the specific training, I always looked for Mestre Dede Pederneiras (Nova Uniao MMA) who I consider the best MMA coach we have and he has opened a lot of doors for me. I'm training with the best in the business, so many people that it's even hard to mention them all. I feel honored and I thank all of them.
How far behind do you feel MMA is in Asia compared to in Brazil?
Well, I see things different from when MMA started in Brazil. We use to have what we call "Vale-Tudo". We didn't have so much internet access, TV, newspaper and specialized media. Nowadays we have big competitions around the world and everyone knows what MMA is about.
The big difference is that in Brazil we have been fighting since the very beginning and MMA is not new for us at all so I believe we have many more fighters than in Asia. The standard in Brazil is really high, if you fight a Brazilian, no matter whether they are famous or not, it will be a big deal. Soon this will happen in Asia too because Asians are made to fight. You have Boxing in the Philippines, Muay Thai in Thailand and now a huge BJJ comunity around the whole of South East Asia. In terms of events, Asia is doing great, just look out the window and see what One FC is doing, it's huge!
How did you end up in Malaysia in the first place and why did you decide to stay?
I was invited to work in a fitness chain in KL. We came, me and my wife, and all the conditions were great! After a couple of years I started to miss BJJ too much and I could not find a club to roll. I even thought about going back to Brazil and it was then I met a guy who used to have mats and run an Aiki-Do club and he opened doors for me to start training with friends two times week. His name is Miles, he helped me a lot, we are still friends and I'm thankful for what he did.
The thing is I always believed in BJJ and decided to help grow the sport in Malaysia and so I started a blog. It worked pretty well, people started look for our place and then we started to have a real BJJ club. After one year I decided to expand the gym, focusing on specific in BJJ, having classes everyday and more people on Malaysia began to find out what's BJJ about.
I partnered up with one of my students and current club manager Aaron and we started working together since then. I decided to stay in Malaysia for mainly two reasons, firstlyI truly believe BJJ has a lot to grow in the country and I still have some work to do here and secondly I have fabulous students, a fantastic family which supports me all the way. All my students are my family no matter if they are in Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta, I could never leave them before the right time. If one day I move back to Brazil, I know they will keep up and carry on kicking some butts!! LOL
8xMAN PRO NO-GI TOURNAMENT: Makoto Ikuta x Marcos Escobar (via BKKBJJ)
Have you always rolled with a gi and is it difficult making the transition to ground fighting for MMA?
Yes! Always rolled with a gi and in fact I believe the gi is what makes everything easier. I know some people think otherwise but just look around. How many BJJ fighters easily adapt in MMA? It doesn't happen the other way around
BJJ Gi fighters go to the ADCC and domain all divisions over wrestlers and even MMA fighters! The gi makes the whole difference, it's like if you train with 16oz gloves, when you put on a 4 oz you will feel faster. The gi makes you get smarter on the ground. This myth that it's hard to adapt doesn't exist in my mind!
Are you planning on returning to Brazil to train for all your fights or will you be conducting future training camps in Malaysia?
Both! Always, when possible, I will get back to Rio for training but we have big plans to run camps at Leverage Combat Academy, to bring new people in, top fighters, and make some noise in Asia and bring the attention to the area, especially Malaysia!
Are there any up and coming Malaysian MMA fighters to keep an eye out for?
Of course we have great fighters in Malaysia.I surely could mention some of my students who are starting the MMA career as well but I think is a bit too early to say names. We have new clubs opening around the area, people investing money and time and more events coming up. I think we are in the right path and next time we talk I will have plenty of names for you!
If people want to come and train with you in KL how can they go about it?
Our academy is shifting adress to Solaris Mont Kiara where we'll have a full facility including a customized cage.
The easiest way to contact us is through
Website - www.escobarbjj.com / www.mebjj.asia
Facebook - www.facebook.com/leverage.combat.academy
Twitter - www.twitter.com/EscobarBJJ