Interview with Claudio Franca

Inside BJJ
You were a successful competitor medaling at the Mundials and Pan Ams. You have a successful Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school in Santa Cruz, CA with several affiliates. You organize and run two of the largest tournaments in Northern California as well several smaller in-house tournaments each year. You’re active in the Santa Cruz community. How did you get to where you are today? When do you start training? When did you come to the United States? What made you decide to open a school?

Claudio Franca
I believe that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Time commitment as well. The most important thing is that you enjoy and have a love for what you are doing. I believe I started training Judo when I was 4 or 5 years old. It is hard to remember. I transitioned from Judo to Jiu-Jitsu when I was 12 years old. I came to the U.S. in February of 1995. I decided to open a school because I enjoy Jiu-Jitsu and I wanted to make it my profession. I had a school in Brazil for 7 years. When I moved to the United States, I wanted to move my school over here as well.

Inside BJJ
What made you decide to start the U.S. Open tournament?

Claudio Franca

First, it helped develop the sport in the United States and around the world with a high quality and well-organized tournament. Since the first tournament, when there was only a hundred people, I imagined it to one day involve thousands of people like it is today. Also, when I moved here, I wanted to help people understand that MMA is one part Jiu-Jitsu. And Jiu-Jitsu sport is something that is possible for everybody, from kids to adults, to compete and be involved in.

Inside BJJ
What are the biggest challenges and lessons you have learned organizing and running large tournaments?

Claudio Franca
There are many lessons such as how to deal with your coaches, fighters, and public in general; how to make relationships with each of them, and how to deal with it. Also, how it is important to follow the tournament rules, and all the procedures it takes to set up a tournament. The biggest challenge is when your’e working with thousands of people and trying to make everybody happy and understand the way to run a tournament in the process. Also, it is difficult to get good sponsors.

Inside BJJ
Recently there has been criticism by the Jiu-Jitsu community (Xande Ribeiro, Relson Gracie) regarding the style of Jiu-Jitsu on display at the World’s and Pan Ams. The criticism centers on competitors playing for points and stalling the clock which leads to matches that are perceived as boring. Relson has recently started a tournament with the original tournament rules established by Helio Gracie in 1962 to combat stalling. What is your opinion on the state of Jiu-Jitsu competition right now?
Claudio Franca
I believe all the opinions need to be respected, especially when it comes from high level competitors, and Masters of Jiu-Jitsu. But, I believe all the competitors should be treated with a lot of respect because if you have an opportunity to train with a Black Belt World Champion, you will see that those guys have an extremely high level of Jiu-Jitsu. There is no doubt that Jiu-Jitsu is more tactical these days. It is important that the competitors learn to choose the rules to improve his performance.

Inside BJJ
Rickson recently stated that competing is only 30% of Jiu-Jitsu. How important is it for people who train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to compete? Is it possible to reach black belt without being an active competitor.

Claudio Franca

I agree with Rickson. The most important thing of Jiu-Jitsu is that it will improve your life in general with better philosophy about life. Also, Jiu-Jitsu will help you in your health, get you in shape, help with social skills, confidence, etc. Competing helps to develop your Jiu-Jitsu quickly. But, you definitely can reach the Black Belt without being an active competitor.

Inside BJJ
Do you think Jiu-Jitsu will become a mainstream sport in the United States? Why or Why not?

Claudio Franca
Yes, I think that Jiu-Jitsu will be mainstream in the United States and in the World. When I started training Jiu-Jitsu, the sport was just practiced in a small part of the Rio De Janeiro city. Today, all the world practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I believe and will work towards making Jiu-Jitsu a mainstream sport.

Inside BJJ
Who are your favorite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters to watch?

Claudio Franca
In the old times, it was Rickson Gracie. Today, I really like the style of Roger Gracie.

Inside BJJ
What do you have planned in the future?

Claudio Franca
Besides to retire and surf until I am tired, I would like to promote the first award tournament for kids with kids from all around the world competing in the same tournament. I would also like to keep improving my team, making it stronger everyday and moving towards the top. Helping my friends and students as well.


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