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Xande Ribeiro Returning to BJJ Roots, but Wants to Fight MMA Twice in 2010

Two-time ADCC and six-time IBJJF champion Xande Ribeiro has been focusing the past two years on a mixed martial arts career, fighting twice with the Sengoku organization in Japan. This weekend Ribeiro returns to his roots when he competes at the 2010 World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

In this exclusive interview with, Ribeiro (2-0 MMA) talks about adjusting back to gi competition after a two-year layoff from BJJ competion and his goal to fight more frequently in MMA for an eventual bid towards the UFC or Strikeforce.

Ray Hui: You're returning to grappling competition this weekend. How are you adjusting back to gi competition after focusing on MMA the past two years?

Xande Ribeiro: It's kind of hard. Going from MMA to jiu-jitsu because it's so different. The gi really wears you down, a little. The grips, the strength ... It's different. It's just a different sport.

I think I will do well. I never left the gi. I've been teaching with the gi everyday. I teach classes, I teach privates, so I've always had contact with the gi. I never really left. I think the other things I train such as the wrestling, the boxing and the Muay Thai, MMA, the mixture of everything is just helping me be a better athlete. Just helps me understand better, the mechanics and better techniques. I think everything combined is just good. I think with the gi I just have to worry about the gripping and the timing. I think everything is in place. I'm going to have to utilize my experience and techniques to overcome the new guys.

RH: After the BJJ worlds, will MMA be your main goal again?

XR: Yeah, definitely because I've been doing jiu-jitsu for 20 years and I think I've done my job already. Right now I'm just giving myself a personal challenge which is to try to win the absolute again and in my division. But yeah, you can't really do both at the same time because otherwise you won't be doing the best you can be. I can still fight [in jiu-jitsu] a lot but I think I've done enough and have gotten enough out of it to be happy.

And with the team we have, I've had the great opportunities to train with the Nogueiras, with Demian [Maia], with [Cris] Cyborg, and I have [Rafael] Alejarra here, who's very experienced in the business for a long time. It's a great opportunity and I get to pursue my dream, which is to become an MMA champion. I'm a jiu-jitsu champion, an Abu Dhabi champion, and hopefully I can be the only other person that can say that I'm an MMA champion too. Not that many people can say that.

In the above video, Ribeiro makes quick work of Gabriel Gonzaga at ADCC 2005.

RH: There's a lot of BJJ fighters moving on MMA, like Roger Gracie, Demian Maia, Braulio Estima. Because there is more money involved in MMA, are you concerned that BJJ could become more of a stepping stone to MMA?

Yeah, unfortunately the [BJJ payscale] still acts like it's amateur, but all the fighters are professional. I think for sure the reasons are the money, and I think personal challenge is the other reason. A guy like myself, I have my school, I don't really make my money off fights. I fight because I love to fight, but of course, money as a reward is great, but for me, it's a personal challenge that I want to be able to show that jiu-jitsu fighting can adapt to MMA. Some people like to fight, some people just like to make money, and some people are out for the challenge.

For a guy like me, how many jiu-jitsu championships can I win more? How many Abu Dhabi championships can I win more? After awhile, you just hit the wall and say, "What am I going to do?" So I started training MMA, and I really liked it. For me it's a new challenge.

RH: Are you signed to any MMA promotion right now?

XR: No, no, I'm not in Sengoku anymore. Everyone knows that right now Japan is not in great hands. They just released me and I can fight wherever I want.

RH: What are you plans now for MMA?

XR: Right now I'm going to [grapple] in July, the Grapplers Quest. It's going to be the biggest no-gi jiu-jitsu tournament they've put together. 32-man tournament with some great fighters.

I've negotiated with a Canadian [MMA] organization and I have another organization in Asia. So I'm still trying to negotiate which one I prefer to fight. So hopefully by September I'll be stepping in the ring again.

RH: How would you evaluate your progress in your standup game?

XR: I've matured a lot. I've trained so much Muay Thai, but now I'm focused on my boxing, been working on my footwork. I'm very self-critical. I think my last two fights, they were great experiences but I think technically speaking, I think I have a lot to evolve.

And having the opportunity to train with guys like the Nogueiras, with Demian, just helps me measure where I can go and where I'm at. Along with conditioning, I think I'm doing okay. I just want to feel more comfortable, see punches coming, be more explosive on my entries and my clinches. It's hard to measure when you haven't fought since last year. I hope I can put a couple of fights together in a row to see how much I've evolved.

RH: So we can probably expect to see you compete more often instead of just once a year?

XR: Yeah, for sure. Definitely. Once I take my mind off my jiu-jitsu competitions, I think the natural process is to get focused in MMA. Hopefully I can fight two more times this year and then maybe next year we'll see if the big boys in America want me. Let's see what happens. I'm not in a hurry, I'm still young, I still have a lot of time ahead of me. I have a great opportunity here with great training partners and I can see a belt coming my way soon.

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