An Interview With: Valmyr Neto


Valmyr Neto, the Brazilian 5ft 7in stature of awesomeness and British and IBJJF European Champion, is one of the U.K’s leading Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belts. Taught by some of the greatest BJJ names in history, Neto’s instructors include former World Champion, Marcus Norat and the infamous Walter ‘Broca’ to name a few.

We talk to Valmyr Neto, a truly dedicated and technically brilliant all round BJJ Champion.

How did you get into your Martial Art?

Back in the day, my father used to rent Royce Gracie tapes. I was amazed by how a small guy could beat a big guy and always being small myself, I thought maybe this is for me.  I remember watching the first and second UFC tournament and practicing with my father at home.

How long have you been practicing your Martial Art?

I became very interested in BJJ and started training at the age of 13 so, almost 18 years.

Who introduced you to your Martial Art?

I was always interested in Martial Arts. I wasn’t the best behaved at school so, I was always in trouble and I liked getting myself into fights or watching fights. So, being a troublemaker, I found that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was not an escape as such but, I think put me in the right direction in terms of discipline and, has made me who I am today.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

That’s a good question! I would say Helio Gracie is the man that made Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  He was my weight and used to fight bigger guys as well; and, that is why Jiu Jitsu has become so popular.

In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit his house, share the mats with him and have breakfast with him. It was a dream come true!

What separates you from every other fighter in your discipline?

The passion! I live and breathe Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I’m not training, I’m teaching or watching tournaments.

What have you achieved in your Martial Art?

I have achieved a lot of things such as winning the Nationals in Brazil, twice becoming the British Open Champion, winning Seni, to name a few; but, I still have one dream to become World Champion. I don’t know if or when it will happen but my aim is to end my career with at least one World Championship.

What is your proudest moment of your career, thus far?

No doubt, my Nationals. However, the British Open made me really proud. I beat two fighters under two minutes and it was the first tournament where I competed with my whole camp of students present too. This tournament was the one where I received my best ever results. Very proud moment.

What would you say are your biggest strengths?

My biggest strength is my guard. I’ve been training to improve my guard for a very long time so, whatever position my opponent may put me in, I am ready to surprise them.

What would you say is an area of weakness, if any?

I could have a better takedown.

What does your training schedule consist of?

Monday to Friday I train at least three times a day… at least! Saturday, I spend the day travelling and teaching around the UK. Sunday’s are usually for tournaments or seminars or my day off depending on my schedule.

Monday to Saturday I have to watch my diet – I don’t eat anything too crazy – I just try to eat as healthy as possible. I don’t eat what I want to eat, I eat what my body needs. Sunday is my treat day – that’s when I can have my Brazilian barbeque!

What are your goals for the future?

To produce lots of black belts from my team, the VN Team. Make my team bigger and spread BJJ around the UK and why not around the world.

My team is the VN Team and my competition team is Checkmat. We have about 6 associations in the UK and have just opened a third in Brazil. It’s not the biggest team in the UK but, I can tell you that we are one of the tightest. My team is happy to train together and to share knowledge so, we are all very close and want to help one another become successful; and, this makes me very proud.

Do you have any words of advice for anyone wishing to take up a Martial Art?

Yes, do it! Nowadays, you see a lot of people suffer from bullying, aggression or violence and martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in particular, teaches you to defend yourself in the most pure way of self defence. Where you can hurt someone without injuring someone. Jiu Jitsu, I think, is different from other martial arts as it is a lifestyle where people with bad behavior or bad relationships, come to the gym to make friends and change to doing something they love. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is like a drug. Even if I try to take a break from BJJ, I miss it and always come straight back.

Also, those who are disabled. Martial arts completely change the way they think and the way they see their lives on a daily basis.

I highly recommend Jiu Jitsu. You can start at the age of 5 and continue for the rest of your life.

Do you have any words of advice for those who already practice a Martial Art?

Train in every single area. When you are most uncomfortable. Before and after classes. Continue to learn and take on board what your instructor shows you. Continue to train so the martial art becomes natural to you and you don’t have to even think. Train to win.

If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be and why?

I know someone who I would fight even though I am not his weight. He is 10 years older than me but, one day, I would like to at least to try to compete with my instructor, Walter Broca. He’s 130kg and he’s always beating me so, if I could compete with him that would be a dream.

What are you plans in the upcoming months?

Doing what I do everyday – train, teach and make champions. To be honest, I’m more satisfied making champions than being a champion myself. I’m sure people have different mentalities but, my mentality is to teach and introduce others to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

I’m very competitive so, seeing my students compete is exciting for me. My classes are 90 minutes and those 90 minutes are pure training. No socialising, just training!

How do you divide your time between training and teaching?

There is no divide. If I’m not training, I’m teaching. I don’t believe in dividing my time. You need to train every day to improve. In my martial art, you can never stop learning. There is always something to learn, whether it’s training with other black belts or teaching students.

Have you ever considered or would you ever consider fighting in the UFC?

Yes, I did have a dream to fight in the UFC but, there are two things that make me think differently. Number one, outside of the competition you have to be so selfish, focus on yourself so much with preparation and the biggest thing is, you don’t have time to teach which is something I am so passionate about.

Secondly, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is my passion. MMA is a hobby. I’ve competed before with a record of 4 fights, 3 wins, 1 loss to see how it feels and to build on the experience to pass on to my students.

But, UFC, especially for my weight division, the pay cheque isn’t the best. I think after dedicating yourself to three months of intense training to be ready, the pay cheque isn’t anything compared to working hard for a month doing what I do.

If UFC comes up then, yes I would mostly likely be interested but, I’m not going out of my way to train for it or look into competing there. I just love Jiu Jitsu.

How is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu viewed in Brazil?

It’s very popular alongside UFC. As much as UFC is growing, Jiu Jitsu is growing too. You cannot do UFC without Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

In Brazil, before I left the country 6 years ago, it was popular but, when I returned this year, I could see immediately how quickly Jiu Jitsu had grown. The gym I trained at in Brazil used to have about 50 people involved, this year we have 150 to 200 people training. A lot of instructors are leaving Brazil too to cope with the increased interest around the world and having instructors from the country of origin generates an even bigger awareness elsewhere.

What are your thoughts on our Blitz Arte Suave Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi?

I’ve been waiting for this gi for a very long time! Since we started this sponsorship about 7 years ago, all the Blitz gis were covered in designs – skulls, masks, logos – so, nowadays, especially for those who are professionals, we need space to put our sponsors and gyms on the gis but, we’ve never had that much space.

This gi comes with a different concept for Blitz with the creation of a well designed BJJ gi and the name means everything. Arte Suave means Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Portuguese.

We have ripstop trousers where the material is strong enough against the toughest grips. The gi is really comfortable, fits well to my body and I can compete in it, which is the main thing. The Arte Suave is my favourite gi!

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