Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Rick Camarero, the only blue belt to compete in the first season of Road to Metmoris (almost everyone else was a brown or black belt). Rick actually got his start in BJJ when he weighed 350lbs, and his brother-in-law introduced him to it in order to humble him. Since that time, he has been on a tear in competition and was recently the #3 ranked blue belt in the world according to IBJJF. We asked him about his time on Metamoris, and here is what he had to say:
GS MAG: Just to get us started, tell us a little about yourself.
Rick: “I train at Babalu’s Iron Gym. I’ve been training under Babalu for about a year, but I’ve been doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for about three years now. I started under James Boran… I actually got started through my brother-in-law who is a 3rd degree black belt under James. He kind of saw that I was a bit arrogant and thought I was tough because I’m 6’3” and I’m a big guy. I didn’t care who came up to me. My brother-in-law is actually 5’ 6”, but he gave me the beating of a lifetime. I was so amazed at how this little guy could put such a whooping on a big guy… so I started taking classes… It’s definitely made me more humble.”
GS MAG: When you got invited to compete in Road to Metamoris, there was a ton of secrecy surrounding the whole thing, they made you sign contracts that you wouldn’t talk about it and so on. Now that it’s over, can you tell us what it was like getting invited, and what can you tell us about now that you couldn’t before?
Rick: “It was definitely a surprise. Ralek made a post on Facebook saying they were looking for ultra-heavies… I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll give it a shot.’ Since I’m an ultra-heavy, I don’t always have to worry about staying in great shape. I do keep my cardio up and do a lot of reps in the gym, but I figured why not?
“So I gave Ralek a buzz on Facebook and told him where I trained and that I was a blue belt… He actually messaged me back right away and told me, ‘no thanks’. I thought I wasn’t what they were looking for, being a blue belt… but I think his photographer, Scott (who had seen me compete before), might have said something to him. So later, I get a message from Ralek saying that I’ve been invited to compete.
“I showed the message to my wife and she was like, ‘Well, what are you gonna do?’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna do it! I have to.’ It was a great chance to learn from more experienced fighters. I went in kind of blind. When I showed up, there were a bunch of huge guys. Even at 6’3” I felt small. Like I was in a room full of giants.
“Then I heard the belts start to get thrown around. People were black belts from Alliance, black belts under Rener Gracie, brown belts, and so on. I just thought, ‘*********! (laughs). I’m a freakin’ blue belt who has only been training three years. What am I doing here with these guys?’ I felt kind of out of place, like I didn’t deserve to be there.
“But Babalu came with me, and he even brought his coach along, Professor Gordo, to help coach me. So I felt this huge amount of pride that he would do that for me. Like, I work hard for Babalu because he works hard for us in the gym. But I was still hesitant about it. Ralek and some others deliberated for a while then came out and made the matches, so we had no idea who we would be fighting until it was time to go.”
GS MAG: You defeated a brown belt, and did so rather handily. What was that like for you?
Rick: “I got to go against Tony Debelak, who is a Rener Gracie brown belt. The funny thing is, he was the first person I met when I got there. When I first saw him, I thought, ‘********* that guy looks tough.’ But the funny thing was that Ralek had rented all of us a house to stay in for the weekend like the Ultimate Fighter; and Tony didn’t have a ride because he flew in to California. So after our match, I actually had to give him a ride back to the house.
“I ended up winning in around 7 minutes. I felt relieved to get the tap. It was like the pressure finally left my body and I was able to have a moment of joy and not be so scared anymore… but I was definitely surprised. I never doubted my training, but I was doubting myself. I let my belt speak for me before my skills.”
GS MAG: What are your plans for the future as far as grappling is concerned?
Rick: “Worlds, obviously… but one goal in particular that I do have, is I would like to I would like to go to the Abu Dhabi Pros. This year I got injured just one month before the trials and so I had to miss them… So hopefully next year, I’ll go win the pros and go to Abu Dhabi. I feel like I can really achieve that.”
GS MAG: Any teammates, sponsors, or anyone else you want to give a shout-out to before we wrap up?
Rick: “First of all, I’m grateful that people have started to take notice of me. Grips has given me the chance to work with them, so a special thanks to them for being my first official sponsor. Also to Herbalife for sponsoring me and keeping me on a strict diet that I’m not always happy about. But they are helping me to stay healthy and to watch what I eat more. But if there is anyone I could thank, it would be my brother-in-law, Luis Sergio Roman, for opening my eyes to this great sport. Thanks to professor James and Bablu for always supporting me and training me.
“I would thank my family, my wife and my daughter. They’re like my right arm in my competitions. My wife has become an incredible camera-woman since she’s come to all of my competitions. Sometimes my wife is like, ‘Why don’t you stay home tonight?’ and I’m like ‘Well, I’ve got a competition in two weeks, I gotta go.’ So she actually comes to the gym with me and sits and watches. Any competition you see me at, my wife and daughter are always there with me. They always come to see me and it’s such a huge support to me. I hope my daughter sees that her dad really loves something and is really into it and she takes that example and finds something that she is passionate about as she gets older. I want her to find something she loves…
“If people don’t think Jiu-Jitsu can change your life, they just aren’t trying hard enough.”
We want to thank Rick for taking the time to do this interview with us we wish him nothing but the best of luck in the future. You’ll never meet a more humble, hard-working individual than Rick. With his mind-set and work-ethic, expect to keep seeing great things from him in the future.