Lucas Valente has been busy taking home wins. The SJJIF World Champion put on a clinic of high-level fundamental techniques when he submitted Bill Cooper at the 3rd Coast Grappling Qualifiers II event, and as impressive as it was, it’s really just another day at the office for him. Valente has competed for five weekends in a row, winning the Miami Open, Houston Open, 3CG Qualifiers II super fight, SJJIF World Championship and New York Fall Open. Even more impressive is that in each event, all of his victories were by way of submission.
Valente is a highly methodical, detail-oriented athlete, and his way of training involves being laser-focused on specifics. “When I train, I always try to focus on something,” he says. “So if I’m training right now and my focus is on trying to submit everyone with an armbar on their right arm, everybody’s going to have a slightly different defense for it. They’ll make me work to get it. So when I do that, I start to figure out the details that work best for me. Because everyone is different… everybody’s body type is different. The details that work best for me might not work best for everyone else. The only way to figure it out, from what I see, is to get the basic concepts and start working around them.”
Although Valente’s highly impressive performance at 3CG started out as a very confident guard pull, he says that he can work just as well on top as from the bottom. “Pulling straight to closed guard was my game plan and then start working from there, but honestly, if [Cooper] pulled first, it wouldn’t have made a difference for me,” he says. “…But my passing and takedowns are just as good as my guard. My takedowns are good enough to take any judo black belt down.”
For those looking to Valente’s skills to improve their own game, he has one big piece of advice: stick with the fundamentals. “My advice to any beginner— but honestly to anybody who wants to be good at jiu-jitsu — is train the basics and understand the basics as much as you can… because any other advanced technique that you want to learn after, you’ll only learn and do well if you understand and do the basics well.”
While, yes, it’s fun to drill all the fancy ninja-looking stuff you see on highlight reels and YouTube videos, Valente is firm in his belief that fundamental techniques — or at least the result of them — can be just as fun. “People sometimes think that the basics are boring or not fun to practice or train, but you know what’s fun? Winning’s fun. And winning is enjoyable. If you want to win and have the enjoyment of winning, sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t like. I love the basics and working on new details on basics. I enjoy it a lot. If you’re not enjoying the basics, it’s probably because you’re doing it wrong.”
Valente is calm, composed, and confident walking into his matches, but he understands that many athletes get nervous about competing, especially in high-stakes tournaments. He says that his own relaxed nature in competition “comes from experience.”
“When you compete a lot, especially as a lower belt, you [come to] understand that competition is simply that: a competition. Your life isn’t at risk or anything like that. It might be your ‘life’ like it is mine, but you and your loved ones are not in danger. You’re in there to have fun. The real reason I started competing when I was a kid was to test myself and have fun, and those are still the reasons I do it today: to accomplish my goals and objectives.”
As Valente prepares for No-Gi Worlds and the 2020 IBJJF World Championship, he’s also doing just fine in the business of instructional DVDs. His release, “Classic Open Guard,” is up for sale now on BJJ Fanatics, and he’s also shared a quick freebie technique that can help you pass your opponent’s single-leg X guard. Check it out!