Lucas Pinheiro can’t stop, won’t stop. Fresh off his win in the light featherweight division at the American Nationals, he’s now gearing up to compete in the Five Grappling Lightweight Superleague against seven other competitors that include Gianni Grippo and Jamil Hill. The 2017 Dallas Spring Open champion (in both gi and no-gi) started gaining weight specifically for the event, which meant that he had to go up a weight class for the American Nationals. Normally a rooster weight competitor, his jump up to light feather for 5SL means that he’s going to be going up against a group of high-level grapplers he’s never faced before. But he’s more than ready for whatever — or whoever — steps up to challenge him.
Pinheiro’s confidence comes from his constant and precise daily preparation. He teaches jiu-jitsu in the mornings, then follows up with strength and conditioning, then a training session at noon and another one at night. Leading up to the Five Grappling event, he’s stayed consistent with his routine, but made a conscious effort over the past two weeks to train with heavier teammates like 2016 Masters world champion Alex Martins, 2015 world champion Manuel Ribamar, and 2017 world champion Nathiely Jesus. “They are amazing athletes and heavier than me,” he says of his training partners. It may be more of a challenge, but given that Pinheiro is still ten pounds below the weight limit for his Five Grappling division, it’s work that will be necessary for him to come out on top. But that’s not to say that all of it has been a struggle. “My new diet is way more delicious and fun than the one I do when preparing to compete in the rooster weight division,” he says.
Competing in two major events in a week would be both physically and mentally tough for even the most seasoned competitors (especially for anyone changing their weight class), but for Pinheiro, it’s pretty standard. Since the beginning of this year, he’s been competing “pretty much every other weekend”, and given that his collection of medals has only grown as a result, it would be a mistake to suggest he slow down. “I love to train and compete,” he says. “I just can’t get enough of it.”
The American Nationals tournament was particularly special for him; this was the first year he’d found himself able to compete in it after spending years dreaming of doing it. “Thank God everything went as I planned,” he says. “I am very happy that I was able to leave it with the double gold and zero injuries.”
Pinheiro’s relentless optimism and enthusiasm for competing are obvious even when you’re not face to face with him. This is an athlete who never gets that pit of nerves and dread in his stomach before he heads out to face his opponent… but that’s not to say he doesn’t get the jitters. “I do get anxious!” he says. “I want it to start so I can have fun, and then I want it to finish so I can see how I did. For Five Grappling I am even more anxious because it is so many new things: new opponents, new type of tournament, new rules, new city, new weight… so many things to be excited about that of course I get anxious.”
The anticipation that Pinheiro thrives on doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, and he plans on using it as fuel for as long as his body permits. “My plan is to compete as long as I am healthy. If I am feeling physically and mentally wall to train, I will do it,” he says. In fact, the weekend after the Five Super League is over, he’ll be competing in both gi and no-gi at the Austin Open, and from there, it’s back to the daily grind so he can put it all on the line at whatever competition piques his interest next. His long-term goals are to become a black belt world champion and then get into the MMA scene, but for now, he’s hyperfocused on this weekend’s matches. “I am just excited to start it, give it my best, and see how it goes. I want to make my team proud, so I will be doing what I always do: to give my best!”