Brazilian time is a very, very real concept.
Sure, for people who have Brazilian friends and associates, it's amusing to joke about how the nation and its people are perpetually late for everything, whether it's dinner plans or democracy. But, I'm starting to wonder if there aren't some benefits.
After returning to the hotel from a day at AKA, Jeff Sherwood and I set about working: Jeff looks through video footage and cleans up pictures, while I start pulling quotes and blogging. Gazing out the door at the sunny San Jose afternoon, I was shocked to look at my computer screen and see that it was 8:30 p.m. back at home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
“Man, how do you cope with the time difference here on the west coast?” I asked. “It's 4:30 and football is almost on. That's stupid.”
“See, I hate the east coast. You try to watch the Dodgers on the east coast, and it's 2 a.m.,” Sherwood replied.
As we spoke, Fernando Bettega walked by our open room door, and we waved him inside, continuing our conversation.
“Fernando, you're from the same time zone as me,” I said. “Do you hate being on the west coast, with the four-hour time difference? Does it screw you up at all?”
“Yeah, yeah. Throws me off,” he replied.
“But, I'm Brazilian, so, I'm used to nothing being on time,” he smiled. “So, I never mind traveling so much.”
|Watch And Learn|
On the second day of training, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza hurt his left foot defending a double-leg takedown from UFC middleweight Aaron Simpson. Though he finished the session -- even doubling Simpson over with a nasty body shot -- his foot was clearly in pain. By the evening, swelling had set in and the BJJ world champion was hobbled.
The swelling only intensified overnight, so, the focus of “Jacare” shifted slightly.
“Now, I can help teach Fernando more by watching, not so much training alongside of him,” he tells me. “I will watch, then help instruct.”
It’s not a bad day for that pair of extra eyes: it's wrestling day at AKA, and Bettega will have the chance to work on what is easily the weakest part of his game.
The live grappling between Ronaldo Souza and Fernando Bettega on their second day of training at AKA wasn't the demolition that marked day one.
Their first night on the mats saw “Jacare” use Bettega as a tackling dummy, showing off a full compliment of the technical, explosive takedowns that put him atop the grappling world. Though the bigger, stronger and undoubtedly more wrestling-savvy Souza still scored a liberal amount of takedowns, Bettega at least managed to not rack up any frequent flyer miles.
On the ground, the fighters are more competitive than you'd imagine. With Souza's size advantage, world-class grappling credentials and supreme athleticism, you'd expect a steady stream of taps. However, Bettega is strong at regaining guard, as well as using other slick tricks, like a deep half guard, to stave off the advances of foes, Souza included.
Offense on the ground is tough to come by against “Jacare,” however. Bettega's closest sniff at something resembling offense in the first two days? He nearly got a back crucifix on the Strikeforce middleweight champ as he ran Bettega to the floor off of a kneetap. The position, never fully locked on, lasted all of three seconds before Souza escaped and claimed side control. However, three seconds of a partial back crucifix on Jacare is a lot more than many BJJ black belts accomplish in their life.
|Two Fighters, One Focus|
The differences between the pair of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Fernando Bettega are stark. It's evident when you meet them: “Jacare,” the gregarious extrovert, and Bettega, the shy introspect. However, the differences are even more apparent when you see them training side-by-side.
“My coaches always try to get me to focus on movement, being relaxed, move, move, move,” Bettega tells me, shucking and jiving in pantomime.
In sparring, his movement is fluid, and his defensive boxing is surprisingly good. He tells me that the sessions he’s had stateside in the past, alongside the likes of Fabricio Werdum and Renato "Babalu" Sobral, have given him a much more acute sense of defense on the feet. Still, it's striking to see a former Chute Boxe product focusing on movement and technique, rather than looping punches and unbridled aggression.
Conversely, Souza's cheery demeanor outside of the gym evaporates during training. Though he flashes 1,000-watt smiles from behind his mouthguard in between rounds, there is no superfluous glove touching, gesticulating, or lollygagging.
In his first session of the day with heavyweight prospect and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier, Souza was all business. Though it was more of warm-up round, Souza quickly found the highest level of intensity appropriate for light sparring. He pulled his punches, but his body was agile and strong, slipping all of the TUF 12 coach's offense, and countering with combinations.
At one point, Souza slipped a right hook from Cormier, and ended up behind the unbeaten wrestler, where “Jacare” landed several glancing hooks to the back of Cormier's ears. As Cormier tried to turn around to face him, the Brazilian's footwork was good enough that he stayed face-to-back the entire time, visibly frustrating Cormier in his own gym.
It was poetic in a way: two MMA fighters -- both elite, international competitors in their primary disciplines -- at different stages in their evolution. One can only hope Cormier's striking comes along as quickly and impressively as Souza's has.
|Getting In Gear|
Day two of training at American Kickboxing Academy got off to a bumpy start for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Fernando Bettega. The largest culprit? Gear.
As we departed from the hotel, the Strikeforce middleweight champion took inventory of his Oakley bag, only to find that one of his four-ounce gloves was missing, prompting a short search of his room to uncover the missing item. Perhaps organizational skills are amongst the things the junior Bettega can instill in his mentor for the week.
Upon arriving at AKA and getting ready, two-time U.S. Olympian-turned-MMA prospect Daniel Cormier told the duo they'd need head gear and shin guards in order to spar rounds at the gym. While Bettega was resourceful enough to cobble together the gear from underneath AKA's ring, “Jacare” opted to chance it for a day without head gear, and forego kicks as a consequence of not having leg protection.
So far, it hasn't been an issue for the grappling great: Souza’s boxing has looked even better than in his August title fight against Tim Kennedy, slipping and weaving under training partners' punches and seemingly landing three- and four-punch combinations at will.