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Rodrigo Vaghi

Rodrigo Vaghi


         Rodrigo Vaghi may not be as well-known as his famous teachers the Gracies, but in the sport world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts, he and his team (Team Vaghi) are strong forces on the rise.

        Based out of St. Louis, Missouri, Rodrigo Vaghi has established Vaghi Martial Arts- with branches in Omaha, Nebraska and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

        In this exclusive interview, Mr. Vaghi speaks about his training at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro, his competition history, his team, his students, and much more. For more information on Rodrigo Vaghi and Team Vaghi, visit his website at Vaghi Martial Arts.

[Martial Direct] How did you get your start in the martial arts?

[Rodrigo Vaghi] I started at 4 years old in Judo.

[MD] You were the Rio de Janeiro State Judo champion for 5 consecutive years. How old were you at that time?

[RV] 11 to 16 years old. From 1981 to 1986.

[MD] You were very successful in Judo, but then you started training in Jiu Jitsu and have been ever since. Why the switch?

[RV] I was 15 when my father took me to Master Helio's school, who was a friend of his. At the time, Alexandre, a friend of mine (he was 15 too) and I trained together and he finished me 3 times with movements that I never saw before. I was very mad that day and all night, but the next day I was there to sign up. Since then, my life and friends are all related to Jiu Jitsu.

[MD] You trained at Helio Gracie's original academy in Rio de Janeiro for 13 years under the instruction of the now well-known names of Rickson, Royce, Royler, and Rolker Gracie, as well as Grandmaster Helio Gracie. Tell us what it was like training there.

[RV] I started in 1985. It was a very special time. Very few Jiu Jitsu players enjoy this experience. It was my other family. We used to fight all the time. Sometimes we would get together 3 or 4 guys (all 15 or 14 years old) and attack Royce, Roller, or Rolker. It was a game of submission and a great time. I remember being the only kid allowed in Rickson's class.

It was a great time as everybody was in the same school at that time. Can you imagine all together: Master Helio, Rickson, Relson, Roller, Rolker, Royce...? It was a special time.

[MD] Of those names listed, who would you say was the biggest influence on you and why?

[RV] I can't say just one because all of them- Master Helio, Rickson, Roller and Rolker- always helped me in different things and Rickson still helps me to understand better techniques.

[MD] You were also an instructor at the Academy, weren't you?

[RV] Yes, I taught in the Gracie academy in downtown Rio and helped with anything I could.

[MD] How long did you teach there?

[RV] I think a year and a half.

[MD] You have been quite successful in your Jiu Jitsu career, too. Can you tell us a little about your competition achievements?

[RV] My early times as a blue and purple belt was no doubt my best time. I won a lot of tournaments in Rio and Niteroi fighting in my division and the open division. At the time, these were the only places that had tournaments. In the brown I competed once and won.

After that I went into the stock market and competition and finding the time to train was very hard. I worked every day from 7:30a.m. to 8:00p.m. for 5 years. Finding the time to train was hard- to keep the motivation and to train hard- but the love of Jiu Jitsu helped me to get through it.

[MD] Do you still compete in tournament Jiu Jitsu?

[RV] I plan to compete in no gi, but about a year and a half ago I injured my neck and after that it's been hard to keep training with the consistency needed to compete. I always train when I can with my students and with my full recovery, for sure I will compete no gi.

[MD] Have you ever competed in Vale Tudo-type events?

[RV] No. Only some disagreements and street.

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