Tonight the mats at Polaris see the return of one of jiu-jitsu’s greatest champions and the rekindling of an old rivalry.
Fernando Terere and Vitor Shaolin have a storied history meeting three times previously, with Shaolin emerging victorious on each of those occasions.
Shaolin himself, has recently returned to jiu-jitsu competition and has been on a tear – with a gold medal at this year’s Master’s World Championships, as well as submission victories at Polaris 3 against Nakamura Daisuke and Daniel Moraes at the Abu Dhabi World Pro.
Since returning to jiu-jitsu after battling the personal issues which stole his prime, Terere has competed sporadically and with mixed results. He took silver at the Europeans in 2013 but was soundly beaten by Vinicius Marinho in the Alliance vs. GF Team challenge at Copa Podio later that year. But he bounced back winning gold at the 2014 Europeans in the Master’s division.
This match is not something that he has taken lightly, his preparation has included training with Alliance compatriots: Fabio Gurgel and Lucas Lepri, as well as bringing in Cantagalo’s finest black belts including Sandro Viera and Leandroratinho ‘Ratinho’ Luizdasiva. This has been coupled with a new strength and conditioning regime that has seen a significant change in his physique.
There has been no playing in the last eight weeks, the jovial character, the dancing and the joking has all but disappeared, replaced by a seriousness and a quiet resolve that I have never seen from him.
As the contest has got closer, training with him has gone from being something I looked forward to everyday, to something I began to dread as his ferociousness and intensity increased exponentially. To roll with him has been to get a small taste of what it must have been like for his opponents at the turn of the century: fruitless, painful, and soul destroying.
His jiu-jitsu has been galvanised by this challenge. He has been ruthless with his training partners, destroying guards with his famed back-step pass, moving as quick as the young man in the grainy videos that I’d studied endlessly; showing absolutely no mercy as he’s choked and arm-barred with impunity.
I wouldn’t like to predict what will happen tonight, but to see the legend back where he belongs, doing what he loves to do is enough for me.