João Gabriel Rocha’s last appearance at the UAEJJF World Pro was five years ago. Now 26 years old, the two-time Pans champion was full of potential and driven by talent, hope, and dreams even as he walked away from the event empty-handed.
Months later, though, his life changed. Rocha was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly, his greatest battles no longer took place on the mats, but inside his own body. He had to take some time off training and competing, but as his body began to respond to the treatment, he was granted permission by his doctor to return to the mats.
The past few years have seen Rocha becoming more and more successful, and so far, it looks like 2019 is his year. Rocha surprised everyone (and even himself, to an extent) when he defeated Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida at February’s BJJ Stars event. Then, just days later, he got the news that after five years, he was finally cancer-free.
Now, Rocha is back in Abu Dhabi for the World Pro, and so far, his good luck and good skills seem to still be intact. Earlier today, he won all three matches in his bracket to win the 110kg Brazilian qualifier, which puts him in the running for a World Pro title. Tomorrow, he’ll face off against other world-class opponents in the main bracket in hopes that he’ll be able to add another big win to his record in 2019.
The Jiu-Jitsu Times caught up to a very happy Rocha after he won the qualifier today to talk about how his life has changed since he was last here: