How Livia Gluchowska Fought (And Won) At Copa Podio… With A Torn ACL

Vitor Freitas / FloGrappling
Livia Gluchowska represented the Australian team in the recent Copa Podio 'Vikings vs Kangaroos' series of matches, where she was matched against Finland's Emilia Tuukkanen. As the only victorious Aussie, she writes exclusively for FloGrappling about how she managed to compete (and win) with a completely torn ACL.

Getting the call-up to Copa Podio

Around five weeks ago I woke up to a message with an invitation to compete at Copa Podio in Brazil as part of the Australian 'Kangaroos' team that would be fighting the 'Vikings'. I felt very honored and excited to be chosen to represent my country and my club, Absolute MMA, at such a prestigious event. I would be joining my teammate Ben Hodgkinson and Vicente Cavalcanti, a Brazilian living on Australia's Gold Coast. Being on a short notice, I was stoked that my work agreed to give me leave and I quickly booked my flights to Sao Paulo.

My training was going extremely well; I had just competed at the Asian Open in Japan and was in the middle of preparations for No-Gi Worlds.

Then, three weeks before the tournament, disaster struck...

While wrestling, my leg twisted awkwardly, and just like that I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee.
I screamed in pain, but also out of frustration -- I knew that this injury usually involves surgery and around 10 months of no sport. I initially struggled to walk, my knee was swollen, at times it felt unstable and I had limited range of motion. However, within 3 days my symptoms had settled and I consulted my sports physician, who confirmed the bad news of a full rupture, but also concluded that my knee was functionally stable and strong.

We put the knee through some functional tasks and I gave myself a week to make a decision whether or not I would compete at Copa Podio.

Training with a ruptured ACL

For the first week I only lifted weights and worked on my range of motion, balance, changing directions and proprioception. I started light drilling at the start of the second week and quickly worked up to specific training with resistance.

I had my first roll just one week before I was due to fly to Brazil. Lachlan Giles (my coach and partner) put me through some sports-specific drills, hard competition rounds, and many hours of specific training from positions in which my knee felt the least comfortable. I knew my opponent's game was heavily centered around leg locks, so no detail was spared in our preparation.

It was extremely tough to stay positive. I didn't want to injure myself further and I wanted to avoid surgery, but most importantly I felt pressure to perform for Australia and to put on a good show. I came close to having a few panic attacks while training, especially when my knee gave way.

The time came to make the 35-hour trip to Brazil. I left home feeling calm, confident and ready to fight. It took hell of a lot of courage to get there.

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Arriving in Brazil

On arrival in Sao Paulo we were greeted by the Copa Podio organizers, met the camera crew and gave many interviews. It was during the weigh-ins when I looked around the room full of the world's best heavyweights that things really came into perspective. I needed to do this for me, enjoy each and every minute, and really appreciate the opportunity to fight alongside my BJJ idols.

Before I went to sleep, I went over my game plan with Lachlan and also Michael Langhi, who would be in my corner during the fight. I had to alter my game and strategy to make sure I didn't put any strain on the knee.

We arrived at the venue 5 hours before my fight, so I had to be careful not to get excited too early and waste energy. I even managed a nap just an hour and a half before my fight. When I started to warm up, I felt great -- I was ready.

The Match

I pulled guard quickly and played spider guard, desperately trying for submissions. I was conscious of not coming up for a sweep too early, as my knee could only handle passing for a short period of time.

After I eventually swept I had to defend a couple of Emilia's beautiful submission attempts, one of which was to my injured knee. I was so thankful that I specifically trained that exact scenario every single day with Lachlan and felt confident in my defense.

The fight finished with me nearly passing and then messing up a back take. I felt a tremendous amount of relief and happiness when my hand was raised.

I think Emilia and I had a great and an exciting fight and showed the world how entertaining and technical women's jiu jitsu can be!

With my knee slightly sore, I made the 40 hour trip back home and went straight to work then training to fix all the mistakes I made. I will spend the next couple of months rehabbing my knee and getting ready for the 2017 season.

Competing at Copa Podio was an indescribable experience, and I felt very honored to have been a part of such an incredible show.

Many thanks to my partner and coach Lachlan Giles, my Absolute MMA teammates and my sponsors MA1 Apparel, Nourissh, Musashi and 34s.

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