Interview With Gabriel “The Gladiator” Santos

Warrior Combat Sports
Interview with
Gabriel “Gladiator” Santos
By Jeff Moynihan CSCS

Gabriel Santos. In the modern day coliseum of the octagon he is called “Gladiator”. At home he is known as honey and daddy by his wife “Erika” and little Girl “Sophia”—the undisputed champions of his heart and without exception the loves of his life, and a good friend by those who know him. Gabe, by any standard is a busy man who  has many professional interests—swords in the fire if you will: one in particular, the 1st Western Mass BJJ Open he recently launched August 7, 2011 will be highlighted in this interview.

WCS: Gabe, I would like to begin by building some background and ask some questions about your early experiences in Brazil. 

Gabe: Sure, go ahead. 

WCS: Gabe, at what age did you begin with jiu-jitsu?

Gabe: I first started taking JUDO at the age of four.

WCS: WOW Gabe, that’s young. What were the circumstances that got you started so early? 

At this point, both Gabe and I had quite a laugh, because, though Gabriel’s English is, in my opinion, great for someone who has been here for such a short time, there are still some terms with which he is unfamiliar. One of those terms was “hyperactive” as it relates to the hyperactive child. So, as he was trying to explain the reason that drove him into judo by describing his behavior as a boy, it suddenly struck me what he was trying to tell me. He, like me was hyperactive as a kid! I immediately yelled out, “Dude, you were hyperactive! That was me!” My poor parents had to wait till I was eight for my outlet of little league football. 

WCS: Gabe, it sounds like you were hyperactive as a kid? 

Gabe: Yea, hyperactive. My parents didn’t know what to do with me, but thankfully our family doctor recommended judo, and I fell in love with it right from the start.

WCS: What got you into BJJ?

Gabe: Well, when I was 15 a friend brought me to my first BJJ tournament, and soon after I started training under the renowned Master Carlson Gracie who was trained by his father Carlos Gracie and his uncle, Helio Gracie. Back then, unfortunately the separation between Gracie families had already happened. Master Carlson still tried to make the school a good family eviornment, and everybody training with him was considered family. It was a great time.

WCS: Gabe, how did you make your way to the US? 

Gabe: About four and a half years ago, a one time friend from Brazil who had moved to the US called me to come up and help with teaching jiu-jitsu at his school.

WCS: How is it that you made your way into “Fight Town” to train at the infamous Holyoke Boys Club?

Gabe: Well, while training at the school, a gentleman who just happened to be the president of the Holyoke Boys Club started taking my class, and everything took off from there. I have some great talent coming out of the Boys Club right now that is destined to be the next generation to rule the BJJ and MMA arenas. I’m also working to put together honest venues for competitors to compete in.  

I got tired of traveling with my team, sometimes for some distance only to watch them lose to biased or unqualified judges.   

WCS: Is that why you decided to put on your own tournaments?

Gabe: Yes, in part. Another reason is that I wanted to recreate, as much as possible, the close family atmosphere that was such an inseparable part of my youth experience in BJJ in Brazil. Back then all competitors stayed for the entire event supporting competitors from start to finish. And afterward, we would often have a big cookout, and hang out and simply enjoy each other’s company.

WCS: They honored the warrior’s code.

Gabe: Yes.

WCS: What else is unique about BJJ tournaments?

Gabe: I also wanted to sponsor a tournament that mirrored a BJJ event as much as possible because it makes for a more exciting and lively event.

WCS: How do you mean?

Gabe: First off, the grading system is different, and the match durations are dependent upon the belt. White belts go for 5 minutes, blue belts go six, purple go for seven, brown go eight, and black belts go for ten minutes.

WCS: Gabe, you mentioned that the BJJ grading system is different. Explain how the BJJ point grading system makes for a more active match?

Gabe: There is more opportunity to score points. For example, in BJJ Passing the Guard is worth points, so as you can see, you get rewarded for moving to a stronger position. The more active a competitor is the more chances he or she has to score points in BJJ. 

WCS: Looking back, how do you feel your first BJJ tournament went? 

Gabe: Great! We got almost double what we expected? Eighty eight competitors! What was really great was that we had all these unexpected entries and were still able keep control of the quality of the event. I had a lot of great help that day. It says a lot for my team.

WCS: Team Gladiator?

Gabe: Yeah.

WCS: Now that you have your first BJJ Open under your belt, what’s next?

Gabe: In Brazil, we didn’t have to wait for a year or six months to compete again; there was always another tournament just around the corner. There was always a venue to remain competitive all season.

So, in November I am promoting another BJJ Open event, which I hope to hold at the Springfield High School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

WCS: Gabe, do you have a date and time for that one

Gabe: I’m negotiating that right now. As soon as I have that nailed down, I’ll get that to you. 

WCS: Do, because we need to post that up on the site to help get the word out. 

WCS: Are you planning any changes based off your experiences from the first event? 

Gabe: No, not really any big changes anyway. Hopefully, we’ll have twice the number this time that we had last time. That would be a nice change. We’ll also have a black belt super fight and a women’s super fight this time. 

Oh, there is an important addition to the next tournament that I failed to mention, I’ve added more categories for women to compete in.

WCS: Here that ladies? Pass the word around girls—Gabriel throws awesome “Equal Opportunity” BJJ tournaments!

WCS: Gabe, any competitions for you coming up in the near future? 

Gabe: Well, I’ve been in training for the International BJJ Open coming up on the 27th of August in Boston. 

WCS: Gabe, how in the world do you find the time to do it all? 

Gabe: It’s not easy juggling everything, family, business; training…sometimes I have to travel to find black belts who can give me a work out. I get a lot of help from my students; I go to train with my CrossFit buddies a couple times a week, and I save a lot of time training with my strength and conditioning coach Mark. Training with him is short, sweet, and to the point.

WCS: Gabe, is there anything that you would like to say before I close?

Gabe: Yes, I’m presently looking for sponsors to help with the expenses related to competition.

WCS: Hmm, we’ll have to see how we can help you out in that department.

Gabe: Thanks, that would be great!

WCS: Gabe, it was truly a pleasure to have this time with you, and to have the opportunity to let everyone know what you are up to these days. Thanks again! 

Gabriel trains and teaches the American Fight Team out of the American Martial Arts Academy, 15 Benton Drive,  East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, as well as the Holyoke Boys Club, Holyoke—“Fight Town” , Massachusetts. Look for Gabe at these places! 

To learn more about Gabriel, and to find out how you can help by being a sponsor, click on Gabriel Gladiator’s icon and visit his web site! 

Keep an eye out too for the results of Gladiator’s International BJJ competition on August 27th 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts (there is sure to be a write up, and clips of his matches!), and check back often for the dates and times for Gabriel’s future BJJ promotions.

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