Under the GBSG Scope is a series of interviews with Gracie Barra Black Belts around the world. In this issue, we talk to Professor Pedro Jordao, the man behind the Jiu-Jitsu program of the China’s first UFC champion.

As the head BJJ instructor of Gracie Barra in Beijing (Shunyi), Professor Pedro teaches Jiu-Jitsu to not only hobbyists and competitors of the martial art, but also to professional MMA fighters, namely China’s Zhang Weili. Zhang, who became UFC’s newest female strawweight champion (and also China’s first UFC champion in the process) over the weekend of 31st August 2019, has been learning Jiu-Jitsu under Professor Pedro for the past five years.

Professor Pedro’s own journey in BJJ started 17 years ago at the age of 17 when one of his best friends convinced him to try the sport. The 34-year-old started training in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, under Professor Erik Wanderly at Gracie Barra BH.

Besides teaching, he is also an active competitor in BJJ himself, winning at competitions such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in Tokyo, IBJJF Tokyo, Brasilia and Seoul Opens, as well as the IBJJF Asia Masters in recent years. However, even with major championship wins under his belt, Professor Pedro sees his biggest achievements as his students.

When asked about how he felt before Zhang won the title shot at UFC Fight Night 157, he already had full confidence in her before she stepped into the cage.

“We always had big plans for her. Weili has the perfect combination of hard work and talent so I was honestly expecting her to win. It’s very gratifying being part of Chinese MMA history,” said the second-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. “And this being a male-dominated sport, the fact that a woman is the first ever Chinese champion in the UFC is even more beautiful. I hope this will inspire more families to allow their daughters to delve into martial arts.”

So is there any difference between teaching Jiu-Jitsu for sport and Jiu-Jitsu for MMA?

“MMA is a kind of “truth” in that it is the closest situation you can get to real combat. You need to always to protect yourself against strikes which sport Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t have. Having said that, we have all these techniques in Jiu-Jitsu that will help in an MMA fight. For me, the difference is about the kind of techniques you should or should not do, depending on the position you are in,” he explains. “If you’re looking to transition from BJJ to MMA, my advice would be to practice a lot of wrestling on top of striking and BJJ as there are many moves in wrestling that allow more fluidity when competing in MMA.”

Part of the Gracie Barra family, GB Shunyi in Beijing, where Professor Pedro teaches, is open to all Gracie Barra students around the world to train at for free. If you’re ever in the Chinese capital, do drop by for some rolls.