It's always fun to play the "How would Elite Level Black Belt X do in MMA" game and sometimes, we're fortunate enough to see a few make the crossover. Soon we'll be seeing one of the top BJJ players in the world make that jump. Braulio Estima is currently in South Florida with the Blackzilians camp in preparation for his MMA debut later this summer. I recently spoke with the grappling ace about his debut and signing with Authentic Sports Management.
Stephie Daniels: You're currently at the Blackzilians camp. Are you there solely to train, or will you be doing other things, as well?
Braulio Estima: Originally, I came here to train MMA with my new team and to help Rashad (Evans) with his upcoming fight. There are other guys with fights coming up, too. Eddie (Alvarez) is going to be fighting in a couple weeks against Aoki. I also came to do some seminars in Orlando at Gracie Barra. I'm having a good time here.
Stephie Daniels: How long are you planning to stay?
Braulio Estima: About two weeks, but I might extend a little bit because it's been so good. I'm so overwhelmed. There are so many things that I learned in one week. I'm so excited about my new journey. The team -- I cannot say a bad word about them. Everyone has been treating me so well and they're so friendly. It's been an amazing experience, and I feel like I've known them for a long time already.
Stephie Daniels: What is the projected time frame for your MMA debut?
Braulio Estima: The original plan is to fight around July this year. I just wanted to come here to get to know the new team, and it's been beyond my expectations. It makes me feel like a white belt again. It feels so good to learn again, because I spend most of my time teaching, teaching, teaching. At this time in my career, I'm just like a sponge, learning a lot, and applying to my understanding and concept of fighting. It might take a little longer or a little less. It's a lot about finding the right show for my debut, and I want to make sure that I'm well prepared. I'm really looking forward to it.
Stephie Daniels: How long have you been training MMA as a whole?
Braulio Estima: I've been training for the last couple years. After the accident last year, my focus was on my match with "Jacare" [Ronaldo Souza] at ADCC. After that, I started training MMA again and the last four months or so I've been doing a lot more work on it.
Stephie Daniels: Who were you training with?
Braulio Estima: I was training with Roger Gracie and the guys from London Shootfighter. I was also training with the guys from Rough House: Paul Daley and Dan Hardy. For my wrestling I have my personal coach, Jeff, who is a very respected wrestler in the UK. He was the one that prepared me for ADCC. I always have him to train with.
Stephie Daniels: A lot of elite level Jiu-Jitsu players have trouble transitioning into MMA. What do you plan on doing to successfully make the crossover?
Braulio Estima: If you want to step over into MMA, you need to open your mind wider. You cannot stick to the same game plan as when you're doing BJJ. A lot of Jiu-Jitsu guys tend to be more aware of going to the ground. I think it's about the right strategy according to your game. I'm not going to go there to knock people out. I'm not going to go there to exchange if I don't need to. My game will be to bring the strategy to what I'm good at. The way that I train striking and wrestling is to bring the fight towards what I'm good at. I'm not going to be there on the firing line, exchanging punches, trying to see who is the fastest to knock each other out. I want to make a game that suits me. I will approach my opponent to get the clinch to make the situation better for my Jiu-Jitsu. I'm going to be fighting people that have years ahead of me in striking, so I cannot abandon my Jiu-Jitsu. I want to go there, and impose my game. I want to set the rhythm. I want to shock the world.
Stephie Daniels: I interviewed Eddie Bravo a few days ago, and he mentioned your upcoming MMA debut. He spoke very highly of you, and said that he considers you to be among the top three Jiu-Jitsu guys in the world. What are your thoughts on receiving such high praise from one of your peers?
Braulio Estima: That's so good to hear. I'd just like to say thanks to Eddie Bravo. I always follow him on the podcasts. He's a very, very good guy at BJJ, and I use a lot of things that he does. It's so cool to hear from him, something of this level. I'm very grateful to hear that.
Stephie Daniels: Bravo said he believes that in order to make a successful trasition to MMA, you have to have a good clinching style of Jiu-Jitsu. Would you agree that this is true?
Braulio Estima: Yes. This is an important fundamental in getting the fight to the ground. A lot of people try to get in the mid-range and that gives more options for your opponent to hit you. My game-plan is to make sure my opponent doesn't have much range to hit me, and whatever punches come won't do much damage. Obviously we need to use our striking, but once you close the gap and close them off; to keep control. The main thing is control before anything else.
Stephie Daniels: What weight class do you plan on fighting at?
Braulio Estima: My objective is to fight at welterweight. Right now, I'm 187-pounds so I'm planning to only fight at welterweight.
Stephie Daniels: Have you already been approached by any promotions to have your debut?
Braulio Estima: I've been contacted by several little shows, especially in the UK and Brazil, and a few in America as well. When I signed the agreement with my new team, they have an agents group, ASM (Authentic Sports Management), and Glenn Robinson runs it. He's my manager now, and he's dealing with all that. He has all the contacts. There's a lot of interest. We're just trying to pick the right time when I'm ready to go. I know once I start, it's going to be a very fast situation, and after a year or two I want to be fighting against the top guys.
I'm ready for it. I know it's not going to be an easy journey, but I never expected it to be. I just want to go there and do my job, and when the time is right, I'll be ready. No matter what happens, I will be ready.
Stephie Daniels: When did you sign with ASM and how has your experience been with them?
Braulio Estima: I signed with them a few months ago, like at the beginning of the year. Glenn is such a nice guy. He really looks after you. He has a bunch of top fighters and I think they all complement each other -- top strikers, top wrestlers and he wanted to bring in someone that has a good level in BJJ, so he approached me. When I came here and joined the camp, I felt so welcome and so sure of my decision. I'm already making plans to come back for 2 months straight before my debut. I think that will be the best thing for me.
Stephie Daniels: How has training with Rashad been?
Braulio Estima: I've been training with Rashad every day pretty much. He's looking very sharp. We've been training specific situations on the ground. He's a very smart guy, he's clever, and he picks up things very quickly.
Stephie Daniels: Have you had the opportunity to spar with Tyrone Spong yet?
Braulio Estima: I haven't yet, but by the sounds of what I hear, I'm actually glad I haven't [laughs]. I don't think it would be a very fun time for me just yet. I've been training with a lot of the other guys though. I've been training with Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante, Eddie and Jorge Santiago. The coaches there are so amazing, and I've learned so much in this short time. I'm over the moon to be around them.
Follow Braulio via his Twitter, @BraulioEstima