Revered Coach, Leg Lock Specialist Roberto Leitao Dies of COVID-19 at Age 83

By Marcelo Alonso Nov 30, 2020

COVID-19 has taken a victim from the combat sports world.

After 45 days of struggle in the hospital, master Roberto Leitao died due to the virus on Saturday at 83 years old in Rio de Janeiro. Master Leitao was the man who famously introduced ground skills to Marco Ruas, Pedro Rizzo, Gustavo Ximu, and Renato Sobral

Considered a master of the leglock and heel hook, master Leitao was passionate about training. In addition to being a 10th degree Luta Livre black belt, Leitao was also a judo black belt.

"There must be someone who likes fighting as much as I do, [but] more is totally impossible. Fighting is my addiction,” Leitao once said. 

Leitão was also a professor of mechanical engineering at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. In 2017, he wrote a book entitled "Biomecânica da Luta" (Fighting Biomechanics), where he was able to share a little bit of his fighting knowledge.

”His ground skills were really impressive,” said Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras. “Even being more than 80 years old he would come to Nova Uniao almost everyday to roll with everyone. No matter if they were professionals or beginners, master Leitao always had some new tricks to show. We will miss him a lot.”

The most famous student of master Leitao, Marco Ruas shared a moving message on his Instagram account about how important Leitao was to his ground development.

"He was with me in almost all my fights,” Ruas wrote. “He was the one who screamed to me to footstomp Remco Parduel in the semifinal of UFC 7. He was also the one who taught me one of my favorite heel hooks.”  

Hugo Duarte, one of the most prominent practitioners of Luta Livre in Brazil, also gave a statement regarding Leitao’s passing.

"It's such a huge loss not only to Luta Livre, but to MMA and all fighting world in general,” Duarte said during a cremation ceremony on Sunday. “[During the Luta Livre] war against jiu-jitsu, he was the one who always tried to avoid conflicts. What impressed the most about him was the passion for training. He had a serious shoulder injury, and the only way he could sleep was using painkillers. Even being more than 80 years old and with that serious injury, he never missed a training session. Always rolling and taping everyone. No matter if in Luta-Livre or jiu-jitsu dojo, he was welcome everywhere.”

The founder of the first Brazilian Wrestling Federation in 1979, Leitao also had played a very important role in the development of the sport in Brazil. Today his son, Roberto Leitao Filho, is the president of Brazilian National Wrestling Confederation. 


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