Pablo Popovitch is one of the most successful grapplers in the history of the sport. JiuJitsuMania had the opportunity to sit down with Pablo at his academy in Ft Lauderdale Florida and ask him about a number of subjects ranging from his illustrious career to the keys to his game. He also bared his heart and shared how the devastating mudslides in Nova Friburgo, Brazil affected him and his family.
You were voted by the fans and Gracie Magazine as Best Jiu Jitsu Competitor of 2010. This is an awesome award, how did that make you feel?
I was so grateful. It made me feel great. The fans are the soul of any sport; their support gives me even more determination and strength to win. It was a very special Award.
You had an awesome 2010, what did you do last year differently that made it such an outstanding year for you?
I just competed more and kept my intensity high. Last year, I really wanted to take may game to the next level, and I did. I had set my goal to compete in every absolute of every tournament I was competing in, and went up a weight class so I could be stronger and didn’t have to worry about cutting weight. The results could not been better: I won a total of five absolutes plus 5 Weight divisions without having a single point scored against me.
Besides being one of the best all around BJJ competitors in the world, you also own a very successful academy. How do you make that happen?
I give 110% effort on my training and my schools. I do it with passion and that’s why it works. I love being a teacher and competitor equally. They complement each other very well. I believe to be a better competitor you have to be able to teach and vice versa.
What was your most memorable match in your career? Why?
The finals of the A.D.C.C 2009, was the most memorable match in my career. I loved that match because I was the underdog, and only a few people believed I could defeat Marcelo Garcia.
People underestimate my game all the time, still I am undefeated for 4 years and have only lost to Marcelo Garcia in the past 7 years. In 2009 people talked that I could only win my weight class because I was stronger than the other competitors. Many said I could not win any absolutes. But then, in 2010, I won 5! The more they talk, the more I deliver. “I love the challenge, keeps me motivated!”
It’s clear that you spend a lot of time on your mental game and preparing for competition. Do you think enough focus is spent in this area of preparation by the majority of competitors? What sets you apart there?
I do have a really strong mental game. Since I was a little kid my Dad worked on that aspect of my game. He gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. Most people don’t work on their mental game. Usually they just plain don’t know how or are focused on other aspects of their game. What sets me apart from other competitors is that I have a really complete game – top, bottom, takedowns, strategy, mental, technical, and physical. Take your pick – I’ll play whatever strategy is necessary strategy for each match.
Being one of the best competitors in the world, what advice would you give to advanced belts who want to compete? What should they focus on?
First, they need to know what their strengths are. I would rather have 10 really good techniques and make them perfect then to have 1000 that don’t really work. Second, work on all aspects of your game, takedowns, defending the guard, passing the guard, match strategy, and finally your mental game.
What about beginners, as students, what should they focus on? What should they not worry about?
Beginners should focus on basic techniques, getting in better shape, and having fun. They should not worry about losing and competition. It’s all about having fun and enjoying each day of practice.
Later once they understand the basics, they can make the choice if competition is right for them and expand their focus accordingly.
You have been very active in the recent tragic Brazil Floods & Mudslides. If you can, share how that has affected you and your life? How can people help?
It affected my life a lot. I lost my Mother in this recent tragedy and my Dad was left in critical condition. My parents were very active in my development as a person and athlete. Not having one of them around is really hard, but every obstacle needs to be overcome. I own that to my Mom and Dad. My dad has already left the hospital and is recovering very well so I am grateful and feel lucky. I would please ask for everyone’s help by praying…