Hailed as the first superstar of competitive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Fernando "Terere" Augusto brought a punishing top game and charisma that would win over a whole generation of grapplers.
Fernando Augusto was born in 1980 in Morro do Cantagaloone, one of the worst slums in Rio de Janeiro. Little is known about his childhood, but he grew in extreme poverty. His first experience in jiu jitsu came at a local academy when he was a child. Augusto earned his green belt (a juvenile rank) there, but he was forced to leave when the academy closed. As he had competed and done very well as a child, Otavio Couto invited him to train at his academy with some of Alliance Jiu Jitsu's top black belts.
Alliance was an association of jiu jitsu academies, normally joined together by lineage, who compete as a single team at competitions. Alliance was, and still is, home to some of the best talent in sport jiu jitsu and there Augusto thrived. Nicknamed "Terere", he felt a touch claustrophobic playing from the bottom so he developed a dynamic top game. Terere was a superior athlete and success came quickly. In 1996 he won the 17-year-old blue belt Brazilian Championship and then in 1997 he won the adult blue belt world championship.
In 1998 Terere, now a 19-year-old purple belt, was thrust into the center of the rivalry between Alliance and sport BJJ juggernaut Gracie Barra at the World Championships. Hheading into the finals of the purple belt absolute division (open weight), the two teams were tied in the overall points standings, a score kept to determine which academy was having the most success. Terere had already won his weight class and now faced Gracie Barra Super Heavyweight Rolles Gracie. Terere gave Rolles an intense match, and when it looked like Terere was about to lock up a standing triangle Rolles slammed Terere, resulting in a DQ. Alliance would take the lead in the team points standing and go on to win the team title. It also started a personal tradition of Terere challenging much larger grapplers.
In 1999 Terere won gold at the Pan Ams and Mundials as a brown belt and was promoted to black belt. He entered in the Middleweight division of the world championships and won his way to the finals. There he defeated Nino Schembri to win his first black belt world championship. It was instantly obvious that Terere was a different kind of grappler. Beyond his skills and physical talents, Terere had a charisma not seen before in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor and quickly had a following of fans. In 2001 Terere would return to the finals but would lose a classic match with Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro. At the Brazilian Team Championships Terere defeated the much larger Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz.
Terere also started his own academy that focused on recruiting impoverished youth. He hired a young up and comer to help coach at his school, Marcelo Garcia. Terere's teaching was highly regarded and top level competitors sought him out. Andre Galvao spent time under Terere, earning his brown belt and Rubens Charles "Cobrinha" earned his black belt under Terere, and both have gone on to become titans in competitive jiu jitsu.
In 2002 Terere was part of a group of elite Alliance competitors who broke away after clashing with the head of the team, Fabio Gurgel. Terere was among those who wanted to compete at the newly formed World Cups, which offered cash prizes and happened within a week of the Mundinals. Gurgel insisted they focus on the Mundials as they brought more prestige to the team.
Terere and another high ranking Alliance member, Eduardo Telles, broke away and form TT Team. Garcia decided to stay with with Alliance and moved to train with Gurgel. Terere would go on to win back to back world cups in 2002 and 2003. Also in March of 2003 Terere tried his hand at MMA, but lost a split decision to Gleison Tibau. He also returned to the Mundials in 2003 and in the finals faced his former employee and student Marcelo Garcia.
Terere showed his former student that he still had a bit to learn, as he triangled Garcia to claim his third black belt world title.
In 2004 Terere famously decided that he was no longer interested in competing at Middleweight and entered in the Ultra Heavyweight class. To everyone's surprise Terere advanced to the finals, where he met the much larger Fabricio Werdum. The match became an instant classic, Terere oozed confidence heading into this match and the two engaged in a very close and heated contest that Werdum would emerge from as the victor.
At this point the sky was the limit for Terere: he was just 26-years-old, had only been a black belt for five years, and already had a trophy case full of world championships. It is entirely possible that Terere could have become the greatest BJJ competitor of all-time, but unknown to many Fernando "Terere" Augusto was in serious trouble.
In October of 2004 he was arrested for causing a disturbance on an American flight. It was soon revealed he was suffering from depression and other mental health disorders. He was forced to do time in an American time in prison and his inability to speak English or Spanish compounded his mental health issues. He soon developed an addiction to crack cocaine, possibly while still in prison. Terere has battled with his addiction since then. In 2006 he experienced a brief recovery and returned to training but he relapsed several times, the most recent coming in early 2012.
He is now clean again and being treated for his mental health problems. He is teaching again at a new academy in Rio he opened situated right next to the favela he grew up in and is also attempting to return to competition at the 2013 IBJJF European Open. While it has yet to be seen if Terere will be able to defeat his addiction, much less return to his former success, he remains one of the most loved and admired BJJ players of all time. His five year run of dominance inspired an entire generation of grapplers. He is a worthy, if tragic, addition to our Pantheon.
Fernando Terere Highlight (via Jecom)