Daniel Valverde, who was considered the biggest jiu-jitsu rival of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the ’90s, is now the leader of Florida team MMA Masters. The team houses such names as Cezar Ferreira, Leonardo Guimaraes, Ricardo Lamas, Josh Samman and Jim Alers.
Happy with the recent victory of new team member Ferreira -- a former Blackzilian -- Valverde recently spoke with Sherdog.com.
The judo and jiu-jitsu black belt praised the excellent structure of MMA Masters, which was opened with his business partner, Cesar Carneiro, a capoeira master who also hails from Bahia.
“I’ve been in Miami since 2004,” Valverde explained. “I started to teach in a small academy where Carneiro taught capoeira, and I taught judo and jiu-jitsu. Our first fighter was Luis Palomino. Suddenly, other fighters started to come, and today we have a 15,000 square foot gym.”
Asked why Florida is such a haven for Brazilian fighters and trainers, Valverde pointed to the climate.
“Florida is such a paradise. The climate is pretty much like Rio de Janeiro or Salvador,” said Valverde. “I have no doubt that Florida is the world capital of MMA today. There is no place in the world with more fighters and better facilities per square foot.”
In 1996, Valverde was the only rival of Nogueira in Bahia jiu-jitsu competitions.
“My father, Belmiro Valverde, was a judo master, and I started to train when I was five. I started to improve my ground skills, visiting many academies,” Valverde said. “Once there were not too many opponents in jiu-jitsu, I started to fight with Rodrigo in competitions. I remember one day we fought two finals, in our weight category and the purple belt absolute division. I won the first and he beat me in the second. After that, we started to be close friends and we even have an academy together here in the U.S. Today, we are just friends and I’m a big fan of him.”
Valverde could not answer why one of his best students, UFC women’s bantamweight contender Amanda Nunes, decided to leave MMA Masters.
“That’s a good question. She has always been like a daughter to us,” Valverde said. “We were so glad about her evolution over the last three years she stayed with us. If you see the Amanda who fought in Strikeforce and then the UFC, you can see a totally different athlete. We really have no idea why she left, but we are pretty sure that Amanda will win the belt in that fight against Miesha Tate.
“It’s been three years of hard work, and we feel that there is a piece of us whenever she steps into the Octagon. We are cheering a lot that she can be the first Brazilian female UFC champion. She has all the tools to beat Miesha standing up or on the ground.”