HIGHLIGHTS: Nicholas Meregali vs Leandro Lo, 2017 World Championship Finals
Jun 7, 2017
Text by Vitor Freitas
In this interview Nicholas Meregali reveals the secrets that made him into a jiu-jitsu world champion.
At age 23 and in his first six months as a black belt, Nicholas Meregali confirmed his place at the highest level of the sport. To win the IBJJF World Championships, “Alemao” went the way of the samurai.
He did not attend the World Pro in Abu Dhabi, prioritizing the Worlds just over a month later. He spent all of his time on the mats at Mario Reis’s Alliance gym in Porto Alegre, doing nothing but training.
“It certainly counted for a lot in this final stretch. Mario [Reis]’s idea was to focus only on the bigger goal, on which we would aim for: to spend this time not fighting, as a brand new black belt, sounds crazy. But we chose to do do like a samurai did: be exiled into a mountain to achieve perfection,” says Meregali.
The plan worked out and his tough campaign at Worlds proved it. In his first match in the heavyweight division he beat Helton Junior of Cicero Costha. He then finished the former world champion Lucas Leite of Checkmat with a choke from the back to secure a place in the final, one of the toughest of the tournament. There, he would face Leandro Lo.
Translation of coach Mario Reis:
0.22: “Two minutes to be champion! 'Alemao', two minutes to be a champion.”
1.14: “You’re so fucking good! Keep it!”
2.15: “I knew! I knew! Because of who he is! I said it! Fabio, he didn’t want to put him in because he hadn’t fought in championships. He was in the cave, he is a samurai! I knew he would win! He would come back even stronger!”
The heavyweight final pitted two generations against each other. On the one hand Leandro Lo, a black belt with five world titles.
On the other, the young Nicholas Meregali. He’d already lost twice to Lo this year at the IBJJF Pans, once in the weight division and again in the absolute.
“[The loss at Pans] was a really difficult thing to process. I do not think the word for that was ‘lesson’, but ‘motivation’ to continue on my way in my actions and my choices.
My victory was a milestone for me, it was exhilarating and intense, I put all my energy into it and I think I got the gift that I should have received. I have no plans from here, the only thing I'm really in the mood for is to work hard, develop further, and feel more and more prepared for my purpose.The defining factor in the match was the mental edge Meregali brought with him. Hyper-focused and incredibly aggressive, he looked like a man possessed. It was the result of an intense period of training backed up by a life of preparation for a moment just like this.
“I always hoped for this moment, even not knowing exactly when it would arrive. Strengthening my mind came from the things I did on a day to day basis, the sacrifices I made and the moments that I missed out on.”
First of all, I really felt like a black belt. Beyond that, I feel that I’m ready to fight in an event like the Worlds.Meregali is a long-time student of Mario Reis, a double world champion and known as one of the best coaches in the jiu-jitsu world. Training under him the young black belt learned much more than simply how to be a competitor.
“I’m sure that the most important thing is to try and be an example as an athlete and a person, a man with good character, kind and honest; a man who helps others and does not put anybody down, an athlete who does not use steroids, drugs or drink alcohol, who eats well and enjoys life with the purest energy, the energy of nature and friendship.”