#237 Caio Terra and the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Caio Terra
2011 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Champion Caio Terra

I came here because I wanted to show everybody that technique can beat the steroids.

These were the words Caio Terra offered just after winning first place in the black belt light feather weight division at the 2011 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship. A moment of silence passed as the stunned crowd mentally confirmed what they had just heard, and a cheer erupted for Terra’s statement.

This display of resistance should come as no surprise to those who know the Rio de Janeiro native. His very small size in high school made him a target for bullies, and he was forced into Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes by his mother who decided that if he was not going to back down from bullies in confrontations, he might as well know exactly how to fight.

Today on our BJJ radio show, we talk with Terra and learn more about what forced him to make this controversial statement during his moment of victory, calling for drug testing at the 2011 BJJ World Championship.

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BudoJake: Caio Terra, beautiful performance, nice technique, just as we expected. Let me know, was there anything that Bruno did that surprised you?

Caio Terra: Bruno is a guy that surprised a lot of people. I like to watch his matches, because he is a very technical guy. His game definitely makes him one of my toughest opponents, everybody knows that. He is always in the finals with me, or with someone else. But today, I came here, I actually pulled out of the Abu Dhabi Pro. I came here because I wanted to show everybody that technique can beat steroids. Something that a lot of people have been doing lately. I think we should be tested right now, in the finals of the Worlds, everybody should be tested. It’s time to start that.

BudoJake: Well Caio, you had an amazing run up to the finals, submitting every guy, you won the gold, can’t ask for anything more.

Caio Terra: Definitely, God was great to me today, not because of the victory, but because I didn’t get hurt. All my doctors told me “don’t do it,” but I came here and I did it anyways. I didn’t get hurt, and I think I gave a good fight to all my opponents. You know, Bruno is the man, but today I beat him.

BudoJake: Congratulations, Caio.

Caio Terra: Thank you. Thanks everybody!


FightWorks Podcast: Alright family, we are on the phone right now, with Caio Terra. Caio, how are you?

Caio Terra: I’m good, thanks Caleb.

FightWorks Podcast: Thanks for being with us. Caio, I think you are one of the people who we probably should have had on the show before today, but here we are. So now we can actually talk to you, and learn a bit more about you and some recent events and stuff.

So Caio, introduce yourself. You have a list of accomplishments in jiu jitsu that is way too long for me to say, so just tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Caio Terra: Thank you for having me here. It’s hard to talk about yourself, but basically in jiu jitsu I’m a four time world champion. I’m the little guy trying to prove that technique is the most important thing for you in jiu jitsu.

FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, like you said, world champion multiple times, that should give our listeners a pretty good understanding of your abilities. Tell us a little bit about how you got into jiu jitsu and who your instructors have been along the way.

Caio Terra: I got into jiu jitsu because of my mother. I was being bullied at school, so my mother kinda forced me to get into jiu jitsu.

My instructors, I changed a lot, because the academy I was in, my first instructor he ended up stopping teaching. Then I got three new instructors, instead of the one that I used to be taught by, and those were Ricardo Vieira, Felipe Costa and Rodrigo ‘Comprido’. Then I had some problems, and I had to switch teams.

So I went to Paulo Mauricio Strauch when I was a blue belt, so Paulo Mauricio Strauch and Reyson Gracie from blue belt to black is who I trained with. Then, a year after I got my black belt, I came to America to teach for Cesar Gracie. So, now I’m under Cesar here in California.

FightWorks Podcast: Wow, ok, so there are a lot of names on there, I think that is more than a lot of people go through, but it doesn’t seem to have affected you negatively. Maybe if anything, it’s helped you?

Caio Terra: Yeah, like I said, I was at basically three teams. The first academy, I had three instructors there. Then I went to another academy, and I had two more instructors, because in Brazil it is not only one guy teaching all the classes, you have a bunch of instructors at the same time, so people can get different styles.

Then here in America, I am under Cesar Gracie. So basically I didn’t switch that many times, I switched two times then I came here to America.

FightWorks Podcast: You mentioned being bullied at school. From what I know about you, Caio [laughs], you seem resistant to that sort of behaviour from others.

Caio Terra: Yeah, you know, the problem is that I was too small. I’m small now, but before I was really, really small. When I was fifteen, I was below 100lbs, so anyone could bully me. So at the age of fifteen, people would bully me, and I would go and fight them, I didn’t get scared. The problem was exactly that I didn’t get scared and fought them, because most of the time I would get hurt.

So my mother said, “since you fight, you can at least learn how to defend yourself.” So that is when I got into jiu jitsu, at the age of sixteen or seventeen, but it ended up that after that, I never got into trouble again.

FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, well there is a probably a relationship there between the jiu jitsu and not getting into trouble. So, I wanted to ask you about the Pan Jiu Jitsu tournament from last weekend. Tell me your thoughts, I mean, there was some pretty amazing talent this weekend, right?

Caio Terra: Oh yeah, it was a very good tournament, a lot of good people competing. Pan American is definitely one of the biggest tournaments nowadays. It was amazing to compete in it, it was great to be a part of it, and it was of course great to win.

FightWorks Podcast: Was there anybody, any competitors, in particular who impressed you?

Caio Terra: Yeah, for sure, like Rodolfo really impressed me, the way he was treating everybody. I mean, the way he was competing against those guys, he was treating them like white belts, you know what I mean? It is very hard, when you see someone, and you think “oh, that guy is so good,” and then comes someone else, and just makes them look like white belts. Rodolfo was doing that in the absolute.

In the competition, I can’t say too much, because I was focused on my performance, so I wasn’t paying attention to anybody else, I was just focusing on me. I’m pretty sure there were great, great matches, because at least my matches were exciting, you know?

FightWorks Podcast: Talk about your opponents. I mean, you ended up in the finals with Bruno Malfacine, but you had more than one match, so was there anybody that you remember in particular during your experience that day, who you fought against?

Caio Terra: Yeah, I remember all my fights. Before Bruno, I finished all my fights with a submission. In particular, the semi-finals was a very tough match, because Daniel Beleza was also a world champion, and he defeated Carlos Holanda ‘Esquisito’ in the quarter finals, who won the Pan Ams last year.

I was expecting to get my revenge this year, because last year I came to the Pan Americans with swine flu, and I made it to the finals. Everybody knows what happened in the finals: I got cheated when I swept him, I didn’t get points. I was expecting to get revenge now, but Daniel Beleza did a great job and ended up mounting on Carlos Holanda, so he got to the semi finals, surprised everybody.

We did a good match, I was beating him by two points, I got him in a couple of submissions, like an armbar, but he escaped. Then I submitted him with a footlock from the fifty-fifty. It was a tough match, because Daniel Beleza has a very, very flexible guard. I have never seen anybody get close to passing his guard. I was feeling pretty comfortable on top, like I was feeling that I had a chance to pass. In my head, I was doing very well, I was really excited to be doing that well in his guard.

FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, there was a lot of back and forth between some of the smaller guys over the weekend, exactly as you described: the passing thing, it just seems there are some guys who are unpassable. You mention Carlos Holanda, he is one of them usually, right?

Caio Terra: For sure, Carlos Holanda is so flexible. But you know, that is very true about the flexibility and everything, but I have been training a lot just for that, for passing small guys. I have trained my whole life against bigger guys, with much bigger guys than me. I think that is why I can do well in the open classes.

Lately, I have only been focusing, in the last six months, on training the small guy game. I think I am creating new stuff to pass a smaller guy’s guard. That’s why I was saying I was very excited about it. I was actually saying that I was looking forward to fight Esquisito because I think I had a pass to pass the small guys game. It is so hard to pass somebody who is so small and very flexible, but I think I have developed some cool stuff, and I want to try it against top level black belts.

FightWorks Podcast: Speaking of high level talent, your final match was against Bruno Malfacine, who has a very similar record to yours, in that he has got medals for the last several years in whatever he does. Talk about your match with Alliance’s Bruno Malfacine.

Caio Terra: Yeah, definitely. In 2008 I first fought galo again, because I was at roosterweight before. I moved up to light feather and then I decided to go back to rooster in 2008. In 2008, Bruno Malfacine hadn’t lost for the last two years, when I fought him, and I ended up beating him by a huge score and submitted him.

So after that match, our fights were never the same. Our first fight, we were both trying to submit each other, like one of the greatest fights ever. We got each other in like four or five submissions each, both of us escaped, until I was able to submit him in a rear naked choke.

After that, all my matches with him, he was kinda not putting his game towards the submission. This was another of those games: he was holding me. Not holding me to stall, he wasn’t stalling, but he was holding me and looking to attack in the right moment. It takes a long time, it takes too long. I like more explosive matches, matches than I can control, matches that the guy is not just picking his space.

Not that he needs to fight at my pace, but at least let things flow. After my first match with him in 2008, he never let it flow again. He is always holding, holding, holding, just attacking at the right moment, when I stop, you know?

It was in general a good match, because it is always very strategic when I fight him, due to what I’m saying about the holding thing. I ended up beating him by two points. I was on the bottom, I tried to sweep him. He ended up attacking my foot, to try to escape, or not let me go to his back. When he tried to attack my foot, he wasn’t actually attacking it, he was just holding it with one hand. He was pretending he was attacking.

Then I got him in a footlock and he started rolling out of the mats. When he started to roll out of the mats, when the judge said “stop,” so we could stop, he went and locked the position. Even though he didn’t have any pressure, he locked the position after the judge said “stop.”

So I was like, “oh man, I can’t believe that this guy did this,” because he is going to confuse all the judges. Everybody is going to think that he had the footlock and he rolled out of the mats, and they are going to give two points to each of us, as both of us were attacking the foot. He actually was not attacking my foot, I was the only one attacking a foot.

End effect was that the ref could see it clearly – the ref that was on the middle of the mats, the central ref – so he didn’t give him the two points. Just one of the refs, in the corner, gave the two points to him. I’m very glad that they made the right decision. You guys will be able to see, in the Pan Ams video, that he didn’t touch my foot, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of people got confused about it. But it was a good call.

Even though Fabio Gurgel was complaining afterwards, because from the angle he was looking, he couldn’t see. But Bruno Malfacine wasn’t complaining. Even if he gave two points to Bruno, he would have to give me the advantage for the sweep, and the advantage for the sweep before that, so I would end up winning the match either way.

I would win anyway, but it was a very tight match, a very close match. Just for surviving the ten minutes I’m very happy, because it’s not easy to come there injured, then being able to a ten minute match with a top guy, a phenomenon of this sport. I’m very glad about it, and I hope as soon as I do my surgery, I can compete against the bigger guys. I hope to do the Pan Ams open class next year.

FightWorks Podcast: So, right after your match, you were brought over for your interview. One of the things that people are asking about and wanted us to investigate were your thoughts, in some of the comments you made right after the match. For the people who weren’t able to watch, would you care to repeat what you said and share other thoughts on that?

Caio Terra: Basically, since last year, I have been complaining to the IBJJF, that they should do some kind of testing for steroids. Some people come to me and say, “you know what you said, it makes no sense, because they first need to make a rule that it’s forbidden.” But they don’t have to make any rule that it’s forbidden, because steroids are forbidden. It’s not forbidden to the sport, but it is forbidden to the society.

You can only get it with prescription, and when you get it from prescription, it is someone that has no power and they need the steroids to be able to get out of bed. That is not the case for someone who is competing: if you can’t get out of bed, you can’t compete. So, I have been asking them last year.

Last year, they told me “you know, I think we will get at least one to three guys at the Worlds, and we’re going to test them, we’re going to start testing.”

I was very happy about it, but they didn’t make any comments after that. They never said anything about it. So I’m like, “dude, I really want that to happen.” That’s because I go compete against some guys at light feather – when I compete at rooster, I feel that most of the guys are at my strength – but when I go compete at light feather, even though I’m like ten to twenty pounds lighter than the guys, I still feel that I should be at almost the same strength with everybody.

But basically, I feel man-handled by every single person. Every single person at light feather can man-handle me. It is like I’m fighting at absolute in my own division. That’s impossible! You know what I mean? That’s not fair. I want to compete at light feather and be able to switch moves, to pick the pace. I don’t want people to hold me, because all the time, people hold me, you know?

I want to be able to get my game going too, I want to be able to show my jiu jitsu. I don’t want people to stall on me. I want to be able to get a triangle and submit people, I want to be able to get an armbar and pull the arm. Even though I will be able to do so, I want to be able to do it right away. I don’t want to stay there, holding for ten minutes, holding for eight minutes, you know what I mean? I want to be able to just go and do it.

It is totally unfair, because I am a guy that is about the jiu jitsu tradition, martial arts, be healthy. I want to teach that to my students. I don’t want to come to my kids and say “hey guys, when you grow in fifteen years, you’re going to have to take some steroids, otherwise you won’t be able to survive at the black belt level.” It is totally not fair.

My point in doing that is because if I had lost after that, every single person would say, “oh, Caio is a bad loser.” I was waiting until I win Pan Ams or Worlds to say it, “hey guys, it is time to change, it is time to change.” It is time to change, because if jiu jitsu wants to grow around the whole world, they need to start testing. Steroids are holding it back.

Jiu jitsu is about technique. We should be able to compete without steroids. A lot of these guys never get injured, never get sick. Then I ask myself, “how? How do these guys not get hurt, how do these guys not get sick?” At least eight months of the year, I am hurt or sick, there is something going on with me. Even though it might be a little thing, but I’m hurt or sick.

I see my training partners, it’s the same thing. We always are a little hurt, even if it is a broken finger or a broken toe, something is hurt on you. But then with these other guys, you see them, they are always one hundred percent. How? They are for sure taking steroids, and it is not only that which proves they are taking steroids.

I know a lot of people, and they used to tell me that they would take steroids. Now? “Oh no, no, I never took, I was joking, I was joking.” Now they are joking, but before I said anything, everybody would tell me that they do, you know what I mean? It is completely unfair, so it’s time.

I will never do steroids, and I don’t want to do steroids. I think that everybody should compete the same. Since I have to compete in the same gi as everyone else competes, I can’t just compete in my shorts, I have to compete in my gi. So these guys have to compete the same way I compete. No steroids, no drugs.

FightWorks Podcast: I don’t think you’re the first person to observe that there may be steroids in top level jiu jitsu. I think you may be the first person to bring the topic to a level where everybody is talking about it, and in a public forum like the microphone after you win the Pan Ams. [laughs]

Let me ask you this: I know that day when you said that, I think there was a moment of shock, then there was a moment of applause for what you said. Has everybody been positive about what you said, or has there been anybody unhappy with what you said?

Caio Terra: All the fans of the sport are very happy about it. A lot of people came to me and said “thank you so much for doing this for the sport.” Everybody that wants to see the sport growing is congratulating me.

But you know, it’s funny that a lot of people complained to me after. The people that were complaining to me after were exactly the top guys. “Dude, you’re going to destroy the sport. There will be nobody there left. Do you want to fight by yourself, is that what you’re trying to do?” You know what I mean?

It’s unbelievable that there is more than seventy five percent of the people, in the top black belts, the top black belt guys, seventy five percent of them do steroids. And I’m saying a low number, because I don’t want to say ninety nine, but it’s very close to a very high percentage number.

It is very sad for our sport. We all know that the guys from UFC, the guys that do Strikeforce, a lot of them, most of them, do steroids so they can be able to train more, train and not get hurt. We know that, we know. But UFC is not a traditional martial art. UFC is just a fight. If you’re fighting MMA, sure, go ahead, there is no respect, everybody is calling out the other.

In jiu jitsu, there should be some kind of respect. I have respect for my opponent, I don’t want to cheat. I want to go there and play by the rules. I want to go there and do my best without cheating.

FightWorks Podcast: Well, let me ask you this, because a lot of time when people bring up steroids in jiu jitsu, sometimes they may observe that the perception of steroids is different in the Brazilian culture.

Maybe it is a linguistic thing, where they are considered ‘supplements’ as opposed to steroids, or some kind of meaning in the different of the language that makes it more acceptable. Is that true, or is that just an American idea?

Caio Terra: Ok, that was actually a very good question. If people come to me and say “so you guys go to movie theatres? Oh, what kind of car do you have? You guys have cars in Brazil?” Like what the heck man, you think that Brazil is that poor? Brazil is one of the biggest economies in the world.

Yes, steroids are forbidden in Brazil. You cannot get steroids. Steroids are not that easy to get in Brazil. Steroids are as easy to get as it is to get them here, you know what I mean? But of course you can get prescription, and then you know a doctor, and he will prescribe to you. I don’t want to say names, but there are teams that have doctors, there are teams that use doctors’ patches on their gi, and they’re the ones that recommend you to do so, you know?

In Brazil, it is not easy to get steroids. In Brazil, it is forbidden to get steroids. You will go to jail if you try to sell stuff like that.

FightWorks Podcast: So it is not something like, you buy a supplement at a store to get bigger muscles and, oh, you didn’t know it contains steroids. That’s illegal there?

Caio Terra: No, it is completely illegal, and you can’t get steroids in the pharmacy. Unless you have a prescription. After you get the prescription, they will put you in the computer, they will search you, they will find if you really need it.

Of course, you can give a lot of money to someone: there is always a way to cheat and get stuff, like there is here too. But it is completely illegal. It is completely illegal.

FightWorks Podcast: Ok. Thank you for the clarification. So Caio, this has been interesting and I’m sure it’s not the end of this topic. It is probably the beginning of the topic at this level of the conversation. Unless you had anything else about that you wanted to talk about, I was going to ask about the surgery you mentioned. I know you said you were hurt, and you came to the Pan Jiu Jitsu tournament hurt, so talk about what’s going on with you.

Caio Terra: No, I won’t talk about what’s going on with me, because I’m actually still going to do the Worlds, so I don’t want to say what I can’t do and what I can. This is something personal, between me and the doctor [laughs]. As soon as I’m fixed, I can let everyone know.

FightWorks Podcast: Ok, that’s a fair answer. The other thing I thought you might want to talk about is opening up a gym in San Jose soon?

Caio Terra: Yeah, you know I’m opening a gym in San Jose, I’m going to have a couple of black belts teaching there with me as well. We’re going to have a good team there. It’s a big step for me, to have a gym in San Jose, because it’s a big city. I always had a dream to have an academy, in a city that has more than seven million people there. I hope that with me going there jiu jitsu can grow even more. A lot of people, if they want to come and visit me, from any team, is welcome to come and visit.

I’m not asking anyone to sign up at my gym: you guys can always come and train with me once in a while. You guys feel free to come in once in a while. I want you guys to keep training with your instructor for sure, I don’t want to steal anybody from anyone. You guys should see the level of jiu jitsu, how big, how nice it is, I want to make people want to have jiu jitsu for their lifestyle. To want to become good, to want to become someone.

FightWorks Podcast: Well, San Jose has a big martial arts history and a big tradition in jiu jitsu, so I’m sure it is going to be even better now. Anything else Caio, before we let you go?

Caio Terra: Thanks everybody for listening, and thanks a lot Caleb for the interview. I hope everybody can help me with this campaign against steroids in jiu jitsu. Everybody knows how big steroids are in jiu jitsu: it’s actually very sad that everyone knows. What is also sad is that some people don’t know who does and who doesn’t, though I’m not going to be calling out names.

I can’t say too much about it, but we need to stop it, we just need to stop this. It is getting too unfair and it is not a healthy habit. We need to stop that, for the tradition of jiu jitsu to win. Hélio Gracie would be really happy if he knew that there were no steroids in the sport, you know?

5 Replies to “#237 Caio Terra and the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship”

  1. i was there and i heard it with my own ears. it took a second to register, but the people on the mat near him when he said heard it instantly. and they weren’t happy!

    caio has a new fan in me!! i will totally support him.

    we’ve all heard the rumors of rampant PED use. it’s about time someone brought it out in the open.

    brazilian culture may not frown on it, but the Pans and Worlds are held in the US. here we think of it as cheating. for a $100 entry fee for an amateur to compete they should be able to find the cash to test the black belt medalists.

    from talking to more than one brazilian black belt, in private, too much about this subject has been confessed to me. it’s sad.

    go caio!!!! great interview and great show!!!!

  2. I have two words, Brandon Vera.

    I know athletes are brave and are willing to go up against any competition but Thiago Silva disfigured Vera’s face as a result of his ‘steroid’ or unnatural substance abuse. He manhandled Vera and I believe it was a result of his use of drugs. Vera was released from the UFC and suffered a lot of shame as a result of that beating.

    Silva owned up to it but how can we alter the direction of Vera’s life as a result of being placed in an unfair competition.

    The same can be applied to BJJ at the highest levels.

  3. Props to Caleb for diving right into what is undoubtedly a very thorny subject, and props to Caio for having the courage to make a statement and the savvy to do so after winning the gold so critics could not easily undermine his assertion. I am very interested to see the responses of the teams contacted and of the federation.

    With all of this said, let’s keep in mind that some bold allegations were made and we also don’t want to create an environment in which every top level competitor is seen through a filter of suspicion. Let’s use this starting point to investigate, establish sorely missing policies, and collect evidence.

  4. I agree that there should be testing of at the very minimum the finalist of each division in the black belt category. Adult, masters and seniors.

    But, I think that you will not find that there is much abuse of steriods in the sport. I think Ciao might not know how to strength train. I’m a 220 pound black belt and there are many people lighter than me and heavier than me that I train with that are stronger, much stronger. I train heavy and consider myself to be pretty strong, so does that mean that those who are stronger than me are on roids? No! It means simply that either I am overtraining or that they are training smarter than myself.

    I may be wrong here, so if Ciao can deadlift at least 2.5 to 3 times his weight, squat at least 2 times his weight and bench at least 2 times his weight, then I apologize. That would be a minimum of what I would consider proper strength training.

    Conditioning would be a different animal with different measurements.

    In addition, dietary supplementation needs to be taken in consideration. Does Ciao take protein, creatine, vitamins, fish oil, and would he be willing t take LEGAL prohormones to give him the edge. Does he consider those things as cheating? I don’t and I’m sure others don’t as well and testing for steriods will do nothing to stop people from taking them either.

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