The Return of Luanna Alzuguir
The Return of Luanna Alzuguir
If you are new to the sport of Jiu-Jitsu, you may not recognize the name Luanna. However, OGs of the sport will definitely know her name. She's been on a Jiu-Jitsu hiatus for the past few years, putting all of her focus into an MMA career, but she's been killing Jiu-Jitsu competition for decades. She dominated the World Championships for five straight years, winning the lightweight division 2009-2013, and the open class in 2010. She also became an ADCC Champion in 2009, and is in the IBJJF hall of fame.
Luanna has recently appeared back on the Jiu-Jitsu scene with the Eddie Bravo Invitational, and has plans to compete more in the coming year. She shares with us her decision to transition from Jiu-Jitsu to MMA, strategies for dealing with the mental pressures of competing, and her goals for the future. Let's get to know the inspiring woman that is Luanna Alzuguir.
Name: Luanna Alzuguir
BJJ Tees: Where are you from and where do you currently train?
Luanna: I’m from São Paulo, Brazil, but I've been living in Florida, USA for almost two years.
How long have you been training?
I have been doing BJJ since I was 9 years old.
How did you get involved in Jiu-Jitsu?
My mom always gave me and my sister all the support to do sports. In reality it wasn’t even a choice, but she always let us decide which sport we wanted to do. I always had interest in doing martial arts, but BJJ wasn’t so popular in São Paulo on that time. I don’t know if was luck or destiny, but a BJJ gym opened really close to my house! I didn’t know what the sport was like, but since the first class, I was sure that it was for me.
What made you decide to make the switch to MMA?
When I decided to make my transition to MMA, I was looking for a different challenge. At that time, I was looking for something different. I still felt that fire inside me to compete, to challenge myself, but I was tired of Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. I won all the tournaments in my division and open class more than one time, so I was looking for a new way to challenge myself. I stopped competing in Jiu-Jitsu for a while and I gave 100 percent in MMA.
I liked my experience with MMA, and I have a contract with Invicta, but I started to realize that it's not for me. I started to feel excited again with Jiu-Jitsu. I realized that I can challenge myself again with Jiu-Jitsu. I don't know what's gonna happen, that's the truth. I don't know if I'm gonna keep doing MMA, or stay just in Jiu-Jitsu. I'm happy to do Jiu-Jitsu full-time, to teach my students, and to live this lifestyle again, so I don't know what will happen with MMA.
How much do you train every week? What is your daily schedule like?
I'm the kind of athlete who really loves to train. Training makes me feel confident. Every day in the morning I do my pro training, and as part of my pro training I do a lot of drills. After that, I teach and train with my students, but the training is a bit lighter. In addition, two or three times per week, I do my conditioning.
Do you have to follow a strict diet? What are your favorite foods to eat?
Since I was 15, I used to diet to make the weight. I always had problems with my weight. So for me, it's very natural to eat clean. I always take care with my diet. If I don't need to make weight, I can relax more, especially on the weekends. But even when I don't need to make weight for a fight, I eat clean. I like to eat clean. When I am more free, I love Japanese food and Italian food. I like to go out and have dinner with my wife. I eat clean and always take care of my weight, and when I can, I go out every once in a while.
What are some of the challenges you have faced along your journey as a competitor?
I have competed in Jiu-Jitsu for more than 20 years, and more than 10 at black belt. Many things have happened during this time, and I've had a lot of injuries. Also, sometimes you get tired, so you need to fight against your mind, against yourself. Or sometimes you have an amazing camp, you give 100 percent of yourself, and you still don't get the results you were waiting for. I think all athletes are going to face that. This is the only way you are going to learn, grow, and become stronger. The only way to get past the losses is to keep your focus. You need to make sure that you're doing this because you love it and because this is what you want to do, not because anyone is forcing you to. You should do it happy. Always keep your focus. You know where you are going to be, what you want to get, and what you want to win. Everyone has different goals. Of course, everyone wants to be World Champion at black belt, but we have steps before that. Every needs to face and deal with problems. Focus and believe. Be happy.
I've passed through some difficult situations. In 2011, I broke my rib. It was bad. I had the choice to just rest and recover, or try to face it and live with the pain. Don't let this stop your dream. This happened many times, with injuries. And, of course, sometimes you just need to stop, but sometimes it's just about your mind. I knew my body wasn't ready for Worlds, but my mind was. And I won. I finished all my fights, and I know that day was just about my mind.
Do you get nervous before you compete? What do you do to get mentally ready?
I always get nervous. If you are getting nervous, it's perfect. You are doing it right. But you need to deal with this. Everyone is going to feel this. Everyone gets nervous. When you are doing what you want, when you really want to be the champion, you are going to get nervous. What do I do to deal with this? I put on my mind that I gave 100 percent in my training. I prepare my mind for a long time. In every training, I am doing all of the situations, and a lot of specific training. So when I start to get nervous, I think about that. No matter what position or situation I end up in, it doesn't matter. I did everything in training. I did everything I possibly could. I just think, “I'm ready. Nothing can be new here.”
Who are your inspirations in Jiu-Jitsu?
I have a couple of people who inspire me. Hanette, for me, is amazing. Ever since I was a purple belt, she was always the person I looked up to. Not just her technique, but her mind also, and her posture in the sport. To me, that's more important. It's not just about how you fight, it's about who you are. Now we are friends, and I'll talk to her when something happens, and she's a person I will listen to.
What are some of your goals for the future?
I have some goals for competing: I will compete in the Worlds No Gi, because I don't have this title. Next year, I will be fighting again in the gi. I will compete at the Worlds, and I want to do ADCC.
I have other plans also. I want to open a school with my wife, and we have other projects with Jiu-Jitsu we are working on. I want to do some important tournaments, but it's not just about tournaments anymore.
Do you have any hobbies outside of Jiu-Jitsu?
I love photography. Me and my wife, we go to the beach a lot and watch movies. That's what I do to relax. I also read read lot. But I would say photography is my hobby.
What is some advice you would give to other guys or girls who want to be competitors?
The most important thing: if you want to compete, you need to trust. You need to trust yourself, your coach, and your training. You need to make sure, every day, that you are doing as much as possible, that you are giving 100 percent of yourself. When you give 100 percent of yourself, you don't know how to do less than this. This becomes the only option for you. And this is what you need to be a good competitor. Always 100 percent. Don't lose your focus, trust, and believe. Give 100 percent and never give up. Never.
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Thank you so much to my wife, Ana Vieira, who brings me this passion again to compete in Jiu-Jitsu. Thank you to all my training partners and my students for supporting me. My mom, who always gave me all of the support. And especially thank you to Shoyoroll, who trusted me in my return to Jiu-Jitsu. It's hard to do it by yourself. And finally, thank you to Nick and BJJ Tees for supporting and trusting my return. He always gives support to the women in BJJ, and this is so important. I appreciate it so much.
You can follow Luanna on Instagram at @luannaalzuguir .