Romulo Barral, "A lot of guys they say, I fight for finishes, this and that, but I think everybody fights to win!"

There seems to be a lot of interest in your performance at the World’s this year.  I understand you were injured and the latest that everyone has heard is that you have a torn MCL, you need to keep your knee braced for 30 days and there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll need surgery, is that still the case?

Romulo Barral

Um, yeah you know. I’m waiting for the report to see what’s gonna be next. You know like wear a big brace. Probably you know I talked to a couple of doctors and they said I need to be thinking about waiting a couple of days and then thinking about you know if I wanna do it [surgery] now because eventually I may need you know. So, I’m still thinking you know I may do right [it] now. I’m gonna talk to another doctor next week and then yeah. I just went to the doctor yesterday, a very good sports doctor, and then he told me, you may heal this right now, but when you start training again, you may get [injured] again. In my mind I may do this right now and get fixed so I can begin next year.

How did you feel in the moments leading up to the injury. It seemed like Tarsis [Humphrey’s] was going for the knee there but it wasn’t really a submission. It seemed like you were escaping and trying to defend and you kind of got put in a weird angle. Is that what happened?

Romulo Barral

Yes, he went for the straight leg lock. And then when he did, I was aware. In my mind, ok I’m escaping here he’s not gonna be able to catch me in this position. But I popped my knee really bad. When I tried to escape I felt it pop and then I tried for a few seconds to move you know to keep going but I couldn’t go. I said to myself, I cannot try to be tough here and then not be able to fight more any longer so I decided to stop at the time.

I could see when I was there watching you had a conversation with your coach, Draculino, at the time. Can you share what you guys were saying during that match? It was like you paused there and you were talking to him and you made the decision, ok I need to tap right here.

Romulo Barral

Yeah, I was talking to him and he was telling me, “ok, he’s gonna try to go to the straight leg lock be careful.” I knew what he was gonna try to do there. I was expecting but he caught my leg pretty good and then when I was escaping it popped my knee and it popped really bad and I looked at Draculino and he said, “ok, let’s go.” I told him I popped my knee really bad and it’s loose and he told me,  “ok, calm down. Breathe and then try again. Keep going.” And then I tried for maybe 10 seconds or 15 seconds and it was getting worse because it was a very weird angle. I decided I don’t want to get a very bad knee. I could try to be tough here and take it but for what?  I don’t need to prove anything for anybody so I decided to stop.

One of the things [about the World’s tournament] was your performance in the Open Weight. You beat Xande and Bernado Faria and I think a lot of people were disappointed that you didn’t get to face Roger in the open weight final. How do you think that would have turned out? How did you feel going into that before the injury – if the injury wouldn’t have happened?

Romulo Barral

I have been in this sport for a long time and I try to be like a professional athlete. I mean I think in the fights, in the special fights, you don’t have anybody favored. They have a lot of tough guys like Bernado, he has been winning a lot of things, Xande, another tough guy, and then Roger eventually in the final. But see [in] my mind this guy is the best. They may be better than me be but when I go against anybody I don’t look about the name. In my mind I think I’m gonna win the fight. It’s like for me it doesn’t matter because Roger, I already know he’s the best. He’s on another level you know. He’s a lot of steps above everybody you know. In my mind I was thinking, “Ok, I’m gonna fight the final against the same just like me, so I’m gonna give one hundred percent to win the match.” It’s always on my mind before all my fights. Anybody I’m gonna fight I think I’m gonna win. I think I’m better than them at the time. Especially in this case the guy is really tough. I cannot stay like you know this guy is too good how can I beat him. If I think like that I’m never gonna be able to be a world champion at open weight which is always my dream. In my mind I think I can beat anybody in the fight. I know the guy’s gonna be better than me after anyway. But at the time, I’m gonna give one hundred percent to win the fight.

I think a lot of fans would have really, really liked to see that fight. That would have been nice. Another thing I wanted to ask you about was you beat Xande in the semi-finals. He has recently posted on his website about some thoughts he has about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu right now and some of the matches at the Worlds. He felt like they were a little too defensive with guys playing for sweeps, jumping half-guard, playing the 50/50 guard and looking for points and advantages and kind of stalling out. His viewpoint was there needs to be more guys going for takedowns and looking to finish with submissions and being more aggressive and really going after it. What is your feedback and thoughts about that?

Romulo Barral

I agree about a couple things. I agree a lot of guys they say I fight for finishes this and that but I think everybody fights to win. Nobody just fights to finish people. Sometimes you’re gonna go against tough guys and you’re not gonna be able to finish. I try to get [submissions] all my fights in the World’s. Since I got my black belt seventy or eighty percent I win by submissions. But you know guys like, Xande Ribeiro, he’s one of the best guys in the world for example. If you have something, may be submit him but it’s really hard to even make a point against him. I understand you know, I saw the finals and a lot of guys but you know for me to say that you know I need to be a hundred percent of my fight to submit the guy, I can tell you I will try all the time but sometime it’s not gonna happen. Sometimes I fight to win the match. If I’m gonna win by one advantage, I’m gonna win by one advantage. I think everyone thinks like that. That’s why I don’t like to say I fight to finish people and this and that because I know one day I’m gonna fight and win by one advantage. For example, [those] who use strategy. Xande for me was using strategy for my fight. He was waiting for the last minute to use a lot of fuel. They wait you know to get the the fights going and going and the last minute explode to get a sweep or advantage. I watched. I always push the pace all the time and then fight to improve the position all the time. I know I win by advantage but I was pushing the pace all the time and then try to improve my position again to get the submission. I’m not going to say I always try to finish him. If I get a good position, I’m going to try to finish you . It’s not always gonna be there. I push the pace. I try to improve my game all the time. But sometime I’m gonna fight a tough time and I’m gonna make one advantage and I say you know what, I’m gonna be here because I want to be World’s champion or open weight World’s champion. I’m not gonna be like ok I just want to fight by submission. Nobody does that — nobody. If you’re gonna win a fight by advantage, you’re gonna win a fight by advantage. If you’re gonna make a strategy to beat the guy, you’re gonna do that. Everybody wants to win the fight. That’s in my mind.

Do you have any thoughts about the practice of if you have two guys who are from the same school, say Gracie Barra or Alliance or Atos Jiu-Jitsu, and they’re going to face each other in the finals and they just have a handshake agreement where one bows out to the other? You have any feedback on that one way or the other?

Romulo Barral

Yes, I do. You know it’s really hard for each fighter because people in jiu-jitsu have been doing this since the first World’s championship. It’s really hard for a lot of people to fight against their training partner especially since they’ve be been training together everyday. World championship is kind of like the Olympics for the jiu-jitsu people. I train with Roger and I’m his friend. We talk, we train before tournaments but we always decide to fight. You know I did this [gentleman’s agreement] a few times but most of the time the guy came to me. I’m going to say I want to fight with you but if you want to give me [the win] and then I’m gonna be in first place I don’t mind you know. I agree everybody should fight. You’re training together. It’s not gonna change anything. It’s not MMA. You’re not gonna punch each other in the face. It’s not gonna hurt him. I think they should fight and it’s gonna be better for the sport.

Yeah, I think from a fan’s perspective. People who are watching, especially people who maybe don’t training jiu-jitsu but they’re interested in it and watching, it’s definitely more exciting. Especially at the World’s, which is like you say the Olympics for jiu-jitsu right now, you want to see that [final]. You expect to see a final match with two guys going at it and not just shaking hands and doing that kind of thing.

Romulo Barral

Exactly, I feel really bad to do that you know.

Just a couple more questions and we’ll wrap it up here. Do you have an opinion if  the IBJJF should offer cash prizes or awards to the winners similar to how the World Cup Pro and Grappler’s Quest does?

Romulo Barral

You know all the tournaments,  Grappler’s Quest, World Cup Pro, are pretty good for jiu-jitsu. You get paid . But who, if you’re gonna think, who did everything for jiu-jitsu? Who made jiu-jitsu get bigger. The most organized federation is the IBJJF you know. I don’t disagree with them [IBJJF] because they did everything. If they should offer for the Brazilian Nationals maybe a ticket [airlines ticket] because the World’s championship is in the United States or something like that or try to find a sponsor. But I fought all my life like this you know since I was a teenager. I don’t get anything from the IBJJF. But today they did everything for jiu-jitsu to make it bigger. I was talking to some guys, close guys, from the IBJJF about that and then I totally agree with them. Like you tell all these tournaments that gave money – a lot of them stopped already. They don’t do anything for jiu- jitsu. Like the World Pro Cup is really good but who made it? The Sheik made it. So one day if he gets tired and doesn’t want to do it anymore he can just stop. But the IBJJF is consistent all the years. It’s there trying to improve the tournaments to become more professional for all the people gonna be able to watch [online], try to get close to be an Olympic sport so it’s hard to disagree. It’s not bad to get paid. They now have all the tournaments that pay but honestly I don’t change my World’s title in open weight in the IBJJF for nobody for no other tournament. If you ask me if you want to win this tournament, it’s gonna pay fifty-thousand dollars, I know it’s a lot of money and everybody wants money right? But my dream is to always become the World’s champion open weight in IBJJF so when I count my medals I count just the IBJJF you know.

Before we end, do you have anything you want to say or add?

Romulo Barral

Yes, I have one person that helped. I feel really good in my conditioning in the tournament. I like to say thank you for my strength and conditioning coach Leo. He did a really good job for me. He changed a lot of things in my preparation in my strength and conditioning. The first day I fought six times. I was ready to go six again you know maybe ten. Next day, the same thing. I don’t even breath hard anytime in the tournament. I’d like to say thanks to him for preparing me so good. I was able to go really good for the tournament.

2 Responses to “Romulo Barral, "A lot of guys they say, I fight for finishes, this and that, but I think everybody fights to win!"”

  1. Budo jake says:

    Great interview with one of the best in the sport!

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