It's around 9 pm and the dusk has done little to soften the heat that engulfs Rio de Janeiro these days. Global warming is working its magic as temperatures do not fall from 30°C even during the night.
The tempurature on the top floor of the Upper Academy, in the neighbourhood of Flamengo, is boiling. At one side of the training area an intense class of Muay Thai ensues while on the other, Professor Marola puts his students through arm-bar drills.
Dividing the two dojos is a white boxing ring where three fully-geared fighters relax and chat after a rigorous sparring session. It is clear that the demonic heat did little to decelerate both the amateurs and professionals in their pursuit of mastery over their respective arts.
Sweaty, yet eager, the Jits crew arrives at the academy to speak to none other than Nova Uniao General, Andre “Dede” Pederneiras, who has accomplished much over his own MMA career, battling with some of Japan’s greatest fighters, but is also seen as a great coach and teacher, raising champions such as BJ Penn, Jose Aldo and Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro.
Although in a hurry to see his family after teaching his class, Dede still graciously gave Jits Magazine his full attention to discuss his past, present and future in regards to lifestyle, diet and training. Wearing a black belt so faded it could easily be mistaken for a white belt, he explains his points with a precise calm and poise.
Here is what the MMA legend had to say:
Jits: You are one of the most prominent pupils of the great Carlson Gracie, with several international achievements as an MMA fighter and successful students all over the world. What can we expect from you in the years to come?
Dede: My main focus right now is the gym that I manage, Upper Academy, and to get the guys I coach ready for international tournaments.
Jits: What do you cherish most from your years with Carlson Gracie?
Dede: I keep good memories. There were always too many fighters to coach in the academy yet he always knew how to manage with it. He often had the right words for the right moments. Especially in instances when you were not so motivated to train. He knew how to cheer you up at that moment.
Jits: What can be expected from a professional athlete regarding diet?
Dede: Sacrifice. The majority of my athletes have to lose weight before a fight, usually around 10 kilos. Some of this is fat, but most of it is water. They normally recover up to 10 kilos on the day after the fight. But until then it is a considerable sacrifice.
Jits: How is it done?
Dede: The diet normally involves a breakfast with two toasts, tea, and a fruit. At around 10 am, they are allowed to have a cereal bar. At lunch time, it is necessary to have protein, so they could choose between a slice of meat or chicken. They can eat green salad at their will and also have a spoon of rice or pasta, but with no sauce. At 5 in the evening, they can have toast again with a tea or coffee. At dinner, just a tuna can, salad, at their will again, and a juice. And that is it, next thing is bed!
Jits: How is the fighter’s performance during this period?
Dede: It has a drop. The diet’s bad phase actually starts two weeks before the fight. The preparation for the fight is virtually over, so the fighter does not have to exercise so much. His main focus will be to lose weight. The week of the fight is the worst, because then the guy has to cut his eating and really reach the right weight. Doing whatever possible is necessary.
Jits: And regularly, what are the food restrictions?
Dede: Everybody here avoids soft drinks, besides that we do not eat fat or any kind of fried food. This is necessary to control the weight. Other than that we eat normally with the same number of meals as every human being.
Jits: Regarding lifestyle, how much dedication is necessary for the pro-fighter on a daily basis?
Dede: Six hours of training per day on average. The majority of them are not used to going out at night.
You earn money to be a pro, so you have to sweat to be a pro. There is no other way.
Jits: What other sports can help with the athlete’s development and add to their Jiu-Jitsu? Or is there really no time left for other activities?
Dede: There is time, for sure. I always recommend sessions of relaxation and stretching. It is extremely useful because fighters contract a lot their muscles during training. It is a lot of heavy exercising, so they have to take care not to overstress their muscles. Yoga would be a good choice and some sauna sessions on the weekend is a good idea too. Food supplements are really important as well.
Jits: What kind of supplements?
Dede: Mainly vitamins, Betagem, Myoplex, or anything similar. These can also replace the food sometimes. Let’s say that one night the athlete is not willing to dine; ok, he needs protein, so he can take a pack of Myoplex, it is pure protein. Dinner can be replaced like this so he can just sleep well.
Jits: What do you do in your free time to relax and rest?
Dede: I just go to the beach.