UFC Gym head coach Raphael Barbosa celebrates students’ evolution, looks ahead to 2023

Raphael, from UFC Gym, and his students. Photo: Personal Archive

Raphael Barbosa, a Brazilian living in Dubai, is among the main black-belts propagating jiujitsu in the UAE. A jiujitsu practitioner since his youth and black-belt since 2007, Raphael has been responsible for the methodology of UFC Gym, in the Middle East, for more than five years. He has nothing but reasons to celebrate the growth of his work—not just because of the results—but due to the evolution of his students.

Recently, the team lead by Raphael and his teachers placed fourth out of 151 gyms at the AJP Festival. In the masters, the team finished in 17th, despite having just a few representatives. In Raphael’s opinion, these results are but the beginning of something big for 2023.

“Analyzing this season, I can say it was wonderful. We’ve been doing this work for six years. We made some changes and can see the growth of the guys who have been with us from the white and orange belts. I’ve had students in all competitions winning gold this year. The white-belts also competed in the festivals and won their gold medals. We collected 47 medals in total. If we compare this to last year’s World Pro, we generally put 50 students, and in this recent edition we put 130 students. Practically, the number we put last year was almost the number of medals we won this year. We placed fourth overall at the Festival, and there were 151 gyms. Some students, despite their absence in the masters, fought as adults in the Festival and won. In the masters we placed 17th, but we didn’t have as many students compared to the Festival’s first days, and even so we achieved an excellent result,” analyzes Prof. Raphael. It’s worth stressing that the team is about to have a new crop of athletes in the purple belt. This opens up the possibility of winning at other levels in future competitions.

With long-term work, which has already been yielding expressive numbers, Raphael wants to raise the level of UFC Gym’s jiujitsu schools even more.

“For the next season, I plan to arrive even stronger and with growth for UFC Gym not just in these four schools we have, but for two more that we’re opening. We’re going to show up bigger and stronger in the next season. My plan is my team of teachers; I want to be able to be closer to them for us to exchange experiences and together lay out strategies for the team’s development. I plan to promote exchange amongst the schools, both in the adults’ and kids’ age groups. Soon we’ll be six gyms, so we’ll have tough training available for everyone. I also want to host some competitions in the next UFC Gym. I’m already anxious for the coming season,” says Raphael, who also has a degree in physical education. Raphael also plans to go back to competing, but first he’ll focus on the evolution of his students. He believes that being only a teacher has helped him polish their learning progress, coupled with the excellent work by all the other teachers from the UFC Gym schools, who are also led by him. 

Raphael and his group at World Pro. Photo: Personal Archive

“I have a team of teachers who have, at most, one year working with us. So there’s a lot to work, line up and have everybody thinking in just one goal. What I noticed is that I managed to capture details that when we’re training, even if with the students, we can’t see. I’ve sat out the training sessions a bit to keep observing and providing support to the students. I’d observe their limitations and mistakes and then I’d give each one a specific training program. I believe that was a lesson that lingered for me. I plan to go back to the competitive scene—that was a valid and interesting experience. We’ll see,” says Raphael.

Recently, the Brazilian promoted two more black-belts. One of them is Romania’s Marius Varlan, who has been training with Raphael since he was a purple-belt. His noteworthy results are two silver medals, won at the World Pro and Ju Jitsu Championship, in Abu Dhabi.

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Written by Vitor Freitas

Jornalista, Vitor Freitas atua diretamente na produção de conteúdo para o Jiu-Jitsu de todas as formas há 13 anos.

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