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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Ricardo Liborio uses jiu-jitsu to change lives

Ricardo Liborio, the co-founder of the Brazilian Top Team and founder of the American Top Team, says if it were not for jiu-jitsu and martial arts his life would have turned out nothing like it has.
Ricardo Liborio, in white, co-founder of the Brazilian Top Team and the founder of the American Top Team, says he is impressed with the jiu-jitsu scene in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Ricardo Liborio, in white, co-founder of the Brazilian Top Team and the founder of the American Top Team, says he is impressed with the jiu-jitsu scene in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Ricardo Liborio, the co-founder of the Brazilian Top Team and founder of the American Top Team, has a compelling story.

He says if it were not for jiu-jitsu and martial arts his life would have turned out nothing like it has.

Liborio grew up in Brazil before becoming an American citizen, having migrated there 15 years ago. He runs a successful business from his adopted country, managing more than 76 training centres around the world.

His American Top Team represents more than 70 fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) including Mark Hunt, Jeff Monson, Robbie Lawler and Hector Lombard.

“I was fortunate to have a decent education and worked in a bank, where I inculcated a corporate mentality that has helped me a lot in establishing a business,” he says.

“If it isn’t for the sport, never mind what happened to your life, which we have to keep going and go strong. For me, I learnt from jiu-jitsu and martial arts to be humble and to go forward in life in a positive way.

“With that, I can tell you my personal story. Five years ago my daughter had two brain surgeries and she was about to die. She ended up blind. If it wasn’t for jiu-jitsu and martial arts I couldn’t bear the hurt and feelings my little girl had to suffer.

“You can’t win in jiu-jitsu or in martial arts by practicing in front of a mirror. You need to compete to win and that’s what the sport had taught me, to fight all adversities.”

His daughter, Bella, is now seven years old and tops her class in reading Braille.

As a tribute to her, Liborio has developed a jiu-jitsu programme for the visually impaired.

“She’s doing wonderfully and she’s a happy girl,” Liborio says. “We have a beautiful program for them and have 32 blind kids we sponsor and it has completely changed their lifestyles.

“A lot of people don’t know when a visually blind person reaches 18 there is not much they can do. It is very hard for them. Some of them are stuck in the house and 65 per cent of them in the United States are unemployed because they don’t have the skills.

“I train two blind kids who are state champions. This is something very special because the sport has given them so much confidence. I am so proud of doing this because I have learnt so much from them in my personal life and personal experience, having a blind daughter.”

Liborio, 46, was invited by the Abu Dhabi Education Council to conduct their annual refresher workshop for the coaches.

The former two time jiu-jitsu world champion and now coach for both jiu-jitsu and MMA, is no stranger to Abu Dhabi.

He competed in the Abu Dhabi’s inaugural World Submissive Wrestling championship in 1999 and has been a regular visitor as a competitor or guest since then.

Liborio sees Abu Dhabi’s school program as the best university for the sport and has predicted several elite Emirati fighters will emerge from the thousands of youths who have taken up the sport.

“What I have seen during my visits to Abu Dhabi is incredible. It is the best jiu-jitsu centre in the world, by far,” he says. “This is the best university with so many technicians at the highest level in the world with no parallel. Nothing can be compared to this manufacturing line in years to come.

“And this is not very far away. I am saying from the things I saw here, this is the perfect mix from the grass-roots level to the corporate governance, there is nothing like this.

“This is all about the love for jiu-jitsu and the benefits the sport will provide to the lives of the country’s youth.”

The UAE capital has emerged as the hub for jiu-jitsu, with the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship established in 2009 drawing the best fighters from around the globe.

“There was nothing in history for a person who wanted to pursue a professional career in jiu-jitsu until the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship was established in 2009,” Liborio says.

“A majority of the top JJ fighters, who practice the sport as professionals, are looking forward to the world pro as the jewel in the crown of the various competitions in the world circuit.

“I can say the UAE is the Mecca of jiu-jitsu. In all my experience and all my life I have never seen nothing like this around the world.

“There is a project here which is impossible to beat.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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