Tanquinho by Bruno Tanque

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World Champion, medals, titles, all of that is a consequence from his dedication and work. Tanquinho won all in Jiu Jitsu, but do you know that it could have happened in another sport?

Tanquinho comemorates his first world champion title after beating Rafael Mendes in 2013.

By: Bruno Tanque Mendes
Associate / CEO Soul Fighters BJJ Association
Black Belt Third Degree

Tanquinho wanted to be a soccer player since he was a kid. He thought he was good. That’s what he thought.
He attended the soccer school in Tijuca Tênis Clube, the club from the neighborhood where we lived and that later would become eternally linked to the gentle art. Incidentally, we lived on the street right in front of the gym. We just need to go up the street and train.
Tanquinho wanted to play soccer; he wanted to play in Flamengo and in the national team. When I came into Jiu Jitsu, he and my cousins ​​were always kidding me, saying that it was a fight to grasp men, joking about the names of the techniques and stuff like that. We kept inviting him to practice for a year, and one day he came to a class. He came and never got out. Soccer became just a hobby.
In those days we didn’t have so many championships as we have today. The first Tanquinho’s championship was a State one and won a medal. He was in third place at yellow belt. He kept on practicing, always getting better, always disciplined and focused.
He became brazilian vice champion at yellow belt. In that tournament, if I'm not mistaken, it started something that few people know about Tanquinho: he has many quirks and superstitions (today he quit it, but it almost became an OCD). Before each fight he used to put a pair of flip flops millimeter lined up side by side, greeted the mat and started. He won once, twice, always with his slippers side by side. Before the final match, he was walking, took the flip-flops out, lined them up, greeted the mat and … STUMBLED on the flip-flops, kicking them out of place. At the same time, he turned back and looked at us with that face "damn, I lost." And he lost. Of course.

Tanquinho facing Charles Cobrinha at Worlds 2013.

Losing that habit was hard. Tanquinho trained on Monday, doing the same routine, the same way every day, until the day that he wouldn’t train well. Then he changed everything. People used to say that he counted the steps, maybe it’s a lie. (Is it?). After he became world champion at blue belt, he started to wear the same speedo and the same gi for every match. It was falling into pieces because the guy fought it all. Always very technical and with a consistent and varied game. Even in the middle belts he showed the solid base that is his trademark: adjusting the positions, the standup game. He always has been a very complete guy.

In his second year as a purple belt he was facing a lot of changes in his life: he was attending college studying physical education and he was already a jiu jitsu instructor at the Tijuca Tenis Club, where he taught for more than 10 years. Every day, he woke up at 5.50 am to train; then he went straight to college, came back, trained again in the afternoon; later in the afternoon teached class and closed the day with another training. He went to the Worlds and if I am not mistaken, there were six fights. A champion, he fought hard!

Before his final I was intrigued by one thing and after the tournament, I asked him:
-Brother, before the final you were stretching there at the edge of the mat, but you kept looking from one side to the other, looking for something. Then you got up, went to the Álvaro, moved his leg and returned to your corner, sat down and quieted. What was that, man?

The answer, my friends, was enlightening:
- Man, during my first fight, while I was stretching, I saw a piece of paper on the floor. I came in and I won the fight. In the in the second, third, fourth, fifth fights the sheet was also there. At the end I was lengthening and I didn’t saw the paper; I looked for it and I saw it was under Álvaro’s foot. I stood up, went over, grabbed the sheet and put it back to its place. I fought and I won. Tanquinho’s world champion winning was due to a sheet all trampled down the Tijuca Tenis Clube.

Tanquinho in action at Worlds 2011 where he was stopped by Charles Cobrinha.

After that came the ADCC trials, world championships, always with technical developments and calling the attention of the crowd, not only for the jiu jitsu, but also for his correct attitude.

While he was fighting a tournament submission right here in Tijuca, Tanquinho had the first serious injury in his career. A dislocated elbow. I remember his words on the way to the hospital: Dude, my career is over.
But he knew it was just the first of serious injuries in his career and he became an example of resilience and resiliency.
Jiu Jitsu guys are funny; it’s like a family and, like in every family, they like to joke with everything. Tanquinho got hurt in a fight against a guy whose nickname was "Bananada"(Banana Candy). After he recovered and showed up again in the academy for his first practice, he went to pick up his backpack; when he opened it, it was full of banana candy inside, but he took it in stride.

Tanquinho started to arbitrate and to travel, he had a chance to get in touch with the world and that was something that made him grew as an athlete and as a person. He had more injuries, victories and defeats. He fought in Abu Dhabi, where he did something unprecedented in the history of Jiu Jitsu, winning in the same league in the same category, four athletes from the same academy; all of them were world champions, Pan and European. After this victory he was living the best moment in his career. He was giving seminars and he was the champion in every fight. He was training in the gym of a good friend of ours, Claudio França and had a dislocated elbow again, but this time we had to undergo a surgery.

Worlds 2013 Podium.

We picked him at the airport and he went straight to the doctor. It was a long surgery. He came back almost a year later and he was IBJJF vice world champion. When he was recovering his pace back and starting to have results again, he had a new injury, this time the worst of his career. Many do not know, but the doctors said that his career was over. He looked for different opinions and did a very delicate surgery. He had a long rehabilitation treatment. He focused himself in teaching, moved to the United States and as a teacher he gave a huge support to Soul Fighters athletes there.

IBJJF Europeans 2013.

By the end of 2012, he returned to competition. He had some good results and some not so good. But at the end of the 2012 season he became no-gi world champion, along with controversy and arguments on the internet.
In 2013 he was in a great shape and everything was reflected in titles: 2x champion in Abu Dhabi, IBJJF World Champion and an ADCC invitation to fight in China. He already said he is going to retire; surely will fight one thing or another, but this is no longer his focus. Today he is in a respected MMA team and he is focused on that. Curiously, he is a peaceful person and brawled five times in his life which is a lot.

But I am making a warning and a prediction: soon he will be one of the best Brazilian representatives in MMA. Fighting is not about the face, it is about heart and attitude and Tanquinho already showed that he has both in the mat and in life. He is a champion, there’s no doubt.

He will always be my brother. I can’t call him Tanquinho.
For me he is Gugu. So, if someday you see a crazy guy shouting like crazy at a tournament: “Finish him, Gugu”, you can be sure that there´s a highly technical guy and above all a wonderful human being fighting there.

May the next challenges come.

Europeans 2013.

Tanquinho x Leandro Lo at Copa Podio.

Tanquinho x Leandro Lo at Copa Podio

Tanquinho x Rafael Mendes, Final match at Worlds 2013.

Tanquinho x Rafael Mendes, Final match at Worlds 2013.

Training at Soul Fighters Academy in Rio, May 2011.