Kenny Florian: Why Nova Uniao is amazingly great

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

André Pederneiras @dedepederneiras
The best article that I read in my life about Nova União. Thanks @kennyflorian

Last Saturday Renan Barao and Jose Aldo both dominated in world title fights, and even more people realized that Nova União is among the greatest teams in mixed martial arts. Former UFC middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, and featherweight fighter, and currently analyst and color commentator Kenny Florian, explains why.

The formula is beautiful, and the story is beautifully explained. Unlike most academies, Pederneiras makes his school available to the under privileged, cooperates with other schools, cross trains in wrestling and Muay Thai, and treats people like family.

Not only does Andre Pederneiras have two UFC world champs at the same time in Featherweight champ Jose Aldo and bantamweight champ Renan Barao, both men are top 5 in my rankings as pound for pound best fighters in the world.

After receiving his black belt from from the legendary Carlson Gracie Sr at age 22, Andre started his own BJJ academy and would eventually join forces with fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Wendel Alexander in order to compete more competitively with the larger schools in Brazil. It was extremely unusual for different BJJ schools to train together and join forces but that is exactly what Pederneiras and Alexander did.

Combining forces, this new team would find much more success in the large Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments. Within a short timespan the team “New Union” or “Nova União” in Portuguese would become a jiu-jitsu powerhouse.

Andre had great success working with the less privileged kids in Rio. He was very active in the community and in the slums (favelas) he gave the youth a place to train. Andre had a lot of experience training kids and he found a recipe for turning many of them into champions. BJJ in Brazil was typically reserved for people with money so Pederneiras was pretty revolutionary in offering to teach those who couldn't afford to pay him.

Andre was also one of the few BJJ practitioners who believed in and cross-trained in wrestling back in the day. Continuing with his trail blazing ways, Andre was criticized by many Brazilians in the nineties for training non-Brazilian fighters for MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions. This mentality of “thinking out of the box” rendered great results for him in MMA and BJJ competition. BJ Penn became the first American to win the world championships at the black belt level under the tutelage of Pederneiras and Nova União.

When you combine these elements with the fact that Andre also ran major BJJ and MMA events in Brazil, you understand that this is a man with decades of experience in high level competition as a competitor, coach and organizer.

The MMA style of Team Nova Uniao is simple to explain but difficult to replicate. Their fighters have a technical and devastating Dutch style of Muay Thai courtesy of Pederneiras and former UFC champion Pedro Rizzo. Their ground game finds a beautiful balance that meshes ground and pound, positioning and submissions.

What is even more surprising is how effective Nova União's wrestling has become both offensively and defensively. Rony Marques was able to take down Olympic Silver medalist and freestyle wrestling world champion Yoel Romero twice in their fight. Renan Barao has a 100% takedown defense rate in the UFC. Not only is Jose Aldo defending takedowns, he has also shown to have great offensive wrestling as well.

All these elements paint the picture of what makes Nova União so good but perhaps the investment of time, patience and a family atmosphere is equally as important.

When you combine those elements with offering underprivileged kids an outlet and giving them structure to improve their lives, you get fighters like Barao and Aldo who are great examples of talent, humility and hard work. Whether Pederneiras has intentionally done this to create world champions or not, patience and goodwill towards the poor youth in Rio has helped him create two of the best UFC fighters the world has ever seen.

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