Sertão BJJ, by Roney Edler, was founded to transform the lives of athletes from the North and Northeast of Brazil

Sertão BJJ, with a gym in Kansas, in the United States, already shows potential for expansion

Roney Edler is being rewarded for a lot of hard work in founding Sertão BJJ.

There are many examples of a lack of opportunities in Brazil. Because of this, many athletes seek survival in another country, when they get an opportunity, motivated by the dream of making a living from sport. Sertão BJJ, a team with an academy managed by Roney Edler in Kansas, in the United States, was created out of a desire for change, with a complete awareness of this lack that mainly affects athletes from the North and Northeast regions of Brazil.

Born in Ceará, his arrival in America did not spare Edler from difficulties. However, he used the custom with unfavorable scenarios to his advantage. This is how he managed to transform a structurally damaged academy into a successful place, with more than 150 students.

Read the full interview with Roney Edler below!

VF Comunica: You founded Sertão BJJ, a team that puts the north and northeast regions in the spotlight. Tell us about the origins of the team and what motivated its founding.

RONEY EDLER: She comes from a whirlwind of feelings. Some disappointments, situations that still happen today, involve large teams that make choices within the so-called “clique”, always leaving opportunities for the center-south of Brazil, because the vast majority of teams come from that region. I think this is wrong, as we have a lot of talent in the north and northeast of Brazil who don’t have the same opportunities. They are forced to leave their family behind to try, outside of their state, to make a living from the sport. Often, they are unable to do so and are left helpless. That’s why I founded Sertão BJJ, to give more opportunities to my students and friends in the sport who are part of this large part of the north and northeast of Brazil. When I left Sobral, in the interior of Ceará, I came to live in the United States and told my students that I was going to open doors and be a bridge for those who stood out in competitions, for those who showed themselves to be good people for society. Because this is the biggest thing, besides being a champion on the mats, it is important to be a champion in life. To my friends from other teams, who still haven’t seen what I see, I realize that many academies exist to raise money, but when it comes to sharing opportunities, they leave it to those who are part of the “clique”, as I said before. Today, everything I do is a reflection of what I watch and listen to from Professor Márcio de Deus, he shows me through this that I am on the right path and that reaching greater heights is a matter of time.

VF Comunica – Tell us a little about your career in Jiu-Jitsu and what was your biggest learning experience in practicing the sport?

RONEY EDLER: I started training in 1994 through a friend who introduced me to Jiu-Jitsu. At the time, I was a person who was off the right path, I liked to get involved in fights, this kind of thing. So, my intention when starting Jiu-Jitsu was to learn how to fight better. But, as Jiu-Jitsu always takes us on different paths, it was from it that I learned the philosophy that fighting gets you nowhere. I changed my mindset and started training and practicing for competitions. I won several regional and state medals, I became a better person and that was one of my biggest learnings. For everything in life we have choices and Jiu-Jitsu teaches us that we are not always on top. At some point life will give you a takedown and take you to the ground, that’s when you will believe and get back up. Jiu-Jitsu prepares and shapes the practitioner for life, on and off the mat, with victories and defeats.

VF Comunica – You have some students who are in the TMC development project. How did this partnership start?

RONEY EDLER: I have two students in my friend Marcos Cunha’s UCLA project: Relrison Freitas and Pablo Araújo. Both had everything to walk the wrong way, but my teachers in Ceará believed in them. That’s how they were drawn to Jiu-Jitsu and came across these vacancies through Sertão BJJ. Even with few resources, we managed to send them to Blumenau where they now train on the UCLA project. This partnership arose when Marcos Cunha and I were part of another team. Today we both have our own flags, but we are always contributing to Jiu-Jitsu, helping our students to have better opportunities. This way, they are able to travel to the other side of the country, where more CBJJ and IBJJF competitions take place. The federations end up acting like the big teams, privileging one part of the country. The north and northeast are always left out, but among the 10 best athletes in each division, a portion of athletes from these regions are always present.

Roney Edler conducts graduation ceremony at the American gym.

VF Comunica – What are the plans for Sertão in terms of expansion?

RONEY EDLER: The plans are simple and direct: offering equal opportunities to everyone who is part of the team, transforming lives through Jiu-Jitsu, bringing athletes not only Jiu-Jitsu, but education and training of human beings. An example of this is the English course we have in partnership with Tiago Mascarenhas, from Seda College, which offers courses to Sertão athletes. With this partnership we contribute to the community as a whole. Finally, we want to grow with quality and not quantity. The team’s vision is to grow and add to the lives of each person who is part of the team, directly or indirectly. The team is a life project, I want to do everything they didn’t do for me as an athlete. When I say that, it doesn’t mean that I wanted everything handed to me, I wanted opportunities to be able to do things differently. Only God knows the answer, because I always put it in his hands. He is the writer of my story with many chapters still unwritten.

VF Comunica – Where is the team’s academy in the United States and what was it like moving to another country?

RONEY EDLER: The gym here in the United States is in the city of Topeka, Kansas. When I got here I knew how difficult it was going to be, but I didn’t imagine it would be much more. The difficulty remains due to language, culture and food. Regarding the city where the academy is located, it wasn’t exactly what my wife and I planned, which is also an important part of the whole process. We received an offer when I arrived here because I never waited for it to happen, I always ran after it. During visits and seminars, in different academies from the old team, the proposal came up to take over and make things happen in an academy with few students and a precarious structure. As a good fighter from the Northeast, driven by challenges, I agreed and dedicated myself to the fullest. With the help of my wife, we went from a gym almost closing its doors due to lack of students to a well-structured and well-regarded gym in the city. In less than a year, I went from 25 to 150 students.

To the joy of the founder, the Sertão BJJ in Kansas City has a satisfactory representation and number of students, including adults and children.

VF Comunica – In terms of opportunities in Jiu-Jitsu, how do you define your stay in America?

RONEY EDLER: This is a place that demands a lot from you, but also offers more opportunities for growth within the sport. We have less human material and more structure for training, supplementation, and other factors necessary for an athlete. Not to mention that we are more valued through sport. This way we can achieve better conditions for our family who still live in Brazil. Our life has improved a lot here too.

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Written by Emmanuela Oliveira

Emmanuela Oliveira é faixa-marrom de Jiu-Jitsu e formada em Comunicação Social. Dentro do tatame, aprendeu que é possível conjugar Jiu-Jitsu, escrita e o gosto pelas artes visuais em um só pacote.

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