You can’t talk about elite athletes in jiu-jitsu and leave Yuri Simoes out of the conversation. The headliner of tonight’s Fight 2 Win 104 in Dallas has firmly established himself as one of the best in modern jiu-jitsu, winning gold multiple times at Worlds, Pans, and ADCC. Tonight, he’ll be looking to continue his undefeated record on the F2W stage, but against an adversary like Rafael Lovato Jr., it won’t be easy. And when you look at his previous Fight 2 Win opponents, that’s really saying something.
“I always had tough matches at F2W,” he says. “So far I’ve competed at three main events ([against] Dean Lister, Travis Stevens, and Tim Spriggs) and I was able to win all three of them. This is going to be my fourth main event for F2W. I expect it to be a tough match, and I am ready for it.”
This 210-lb match comes shortly after another big challenge that Simoes successfully met just a couple weeks ago: Combat Jiu-Jitsu Fight Night. Simoes wasn’t originally slated to be on the card, but when Gordon Ryan was injured and removed from the event (along with his would-be opponent Fabricio Werdum), Simoes stepped in and ultimately won the finals against 10th Planet’s Jon Blank.
Simoes’ early success in CJJ is encouraging both to him and his fans, but with a busy competitive schedule on the horizon, we may have to wait a while before we see him slapping anyone else around.
“Combat Jiu-Jitsu was definitely a great experience for me. Even though I didn’t have so much time to prepare for that, I ended up doing well because I think that its rules favor my style of grappling — if you like to play takedowns and top game, the slaps will only make it better for you, in my opinion. I’m sure that I could mention a full page of names that would give it an interesting match against me at Combat Jiu-Jitsu. But as for right now, my main focus is this up and coming match against Lovato, and then the IBJJF Heavyweight GP in August, and then, of course, ADCC in September. After these, we can talk about slaps again,” he says with a laugh.
Simoes isn’t just interested in slaps, though. Now that he’s established himself as a dominant force in jiu-jitsu, we may soon see him testing his skills in the cage as well. “I’ve always wanted to try MMA,” he says. “I’ve trained it on and off for a while and got to meet and train with a lot of legends of the sport. I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten a fair offer for a grappler of my caliber yet. But when that happens, you can be sure to see Yuri put on the gloves and go swing for the fences.”
Simoes’ adaptation to a variety of rulesets and opponents is part of what makes him so dangerous on the mats, and it’s helped him find success on the F2W stage throughout the promotion’s history. Fight 2 Win has now begun to include judo matches on their cards, but although the sport itself is new to the promotion, the inclusion of judokas in the events is not. In fact, Simoes went up against (and ultimately defeated) Olympic judoka Travis Stevens back at F2W 44. While both martial arts certainly have their strengths and weaknesses, Simoes doesn’t believe they were created equal.
“Judokas are always tough — they’ve got that strong grip and crazy balance, plus brutal takedowns of course,” he says. “And when the high-level judo beasts decide to work on their ground also, they become a real dangerous challenge for any jiu-jitsu guy. But I truly believe jiu-jitsu will always be a superior art.”
After the dust of F2W 104 settles, Simoes will be focused on the ultimate prize: a third ADCC title. “I might do the 99+ kg division and try to become the first athlete to ever win ADCC in three different weight classes. Plus, I wasn’t able to compete in the 2017 ADCC absolute division due to a bad injury I was dealing with at the time. But for this year, I am very confident that I can win both my weight and the open class. This is my prime in grappling, and 2019 will be my year.”
You can catch Simoes vs. Lovato Jr., plus many other exciting matches at F2W 104 when it streams live tonight on FloGrappling.