Former AKA Jiu-Jitsu Coach: If Oliviera Beats Makhachev, Khabib Would Return

For many years Leandro Vieira was responsible for sharpening the jiu-jitsu of American Kickboxing Academy athletes, but in 2018, that partnership came to an end.

“No hard feelings, but basically they changed [plans] after years of partnership,” explained Vieira, brother of the legendary Leonardo Vieira, leader of the Checkmat team. “When they invited me to take care of jiu-jitsu at AKA, there were no plans of having their own jiu-jitsu school so I came with Checkmat. But suddenly they decided to change the plans and built their own jiu-jitsu team.”

Vieira is now working at his own Bay Area gym in Morgan Hill, Calif.

“In the beginning it was very tough, but now I recognize it as the best thing that could happen in my life,” he said. “The philosophy of MMA is totally different from what we learn in martial arts. Now I´m almost 100% focused on my jiu-jitsu school. The only MMA fighter I´m working with is Marlon Vera.”

According to Vieira, even with all trash talk involved in the promotion of his fights, Khabib Nurmagomedov has always recognized the importance of jiu-jitsu in the evolution of his game.

“When I arrived at AKA, guys like Khabib, [Luke] Rockhold and [Islam] Makhachev already had a very good level on the ground. But our work together was very important to evolve their MMA game,” he said.

Vieira points to one prominent example famously utilized by Nurmagomedov in the UFC.

“Today it is known by many as Khabib Control, [but] the KC (knee control) evolved from my brother Leozinho's strongest position, the leg drag,” Vieira said. “In fact, we had great teamwork here throughout this period. Fortunately, I was able to keep a great friendship with guys like Khabib and [Daniel Cormier].”

If a lightweight title fight between Makhachev and Charles Oliveira is confirmed, Vieira believes that the Dagestani would not avoid the Brazilian’s guard.

“I’ve always said that if Khabib and Makhachev fought in ADCC they would surprise a lot of people,” Vieira said. “They are very good offensive and defensive [grapplers] and are even better in MMA terms since they are very clever using KC while punishing opponents. If Makhachev feels any danger on the ground, he would just release the knee and stand up again. I just don’t see him avoiding Oliveira´s ground game like his previous oponents.”

Vieira also agreed with Ali Abdelaziz, who said in a recent interview that he believed Nurmagomedov could beat Israel Adesanya in a middleweight fight.

“Definitely Khabib has the recipe,” Vieira said. “He is technically and mentally superior to Adesanya. From what I´ve seen him doing in the academy, I have to agree with Ali.”

Based on his only relationship with Nurmagomedov, Vieira also believes the retired former champion would return to the UFC if Oliveira were to defeat Makhachev.

“Definitely. If Charles beats Makhachev, I truly believe that Khabib would return to avenge him,” Vieira said.

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