Bigger organizations in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu usually give birth to smaller teams after black belts decide to pave their own paths. This is the case with Checkmat. Checkmat was formed by the Viera Brothers, Leo Vieira and Rico Vieira. This happened when the brothers decided to split from Brasa Clube de Jiu-Jitsu. This happened in 2008 and though there was no guarantee of competition success, especially for a new team, Checkmat was able to win medals at some of the biggest tournaments.
It was also the same year when Andre Galvao and Ramon Lemos left Brasa and started Atos. Today, both Checkmat and Atos established their names in the competition scene.
Leo Vieira and Rico Vieira are two of the most prominent competitors under the flag of Alliance during the late 1990s. With misunderstandings between Alliance coach Fabio Gurgel and the brothers along with other competitors, they were kicked out of the academy in 2002.
The argument was because of the Mundial (IBJJF World Championship) that occurred a week after the Copa do Mundo. Between the two tournaments, Copa do Mundo offered good prize money for the competitors while the IBJJF Mundial didn’t have any prize money. Leozinho along with his other teammates believed that they should support the CBJJ organization and compete in it knowing that there is a prize for the winners.
Unfortunately, Gurgel didn’t approve of this move. The reasons were never known outside the confines of the Alliance team. The competitors proceeded to compete at the CBJJO led tournament which got them banned by Gurgel from the team.
Now without any team or affiliation, the ex-members of Alliance formed the “Master Team” to honor the gym where the group first trained during the 1980s. “Master Team” eventually became Brasa Clube de Jiu Jitsu.
The two main figures in Brasa were the Vieira brothers. However, the Vieira brothers also noted that other fighters were leading the team. Unfortunately, the brothers commented that Brasa lacked leadership and direction. And because of this, they’ve decided to leave Brasa and start their own team.
In 2008, among the members that joined the Vieira brothers were Chico Mendes and Sebastian Lalli to build a strong Checkmat team.
Leozinho Coming out of Competitive Retirement
In 2011, now under the Checkmat banner, Leozinho decided to compete once again in ADCC. He also decided to compete in a weight class above his usual weight at -77kg because there was a vacant slot. This was arguably the hardest division in the tournament as well.
Many dismissed the Checkmat leader when he decided to join the 2011 ADCC saying that he is too old. However, though he didn’t win the tournament, he was able to finish 2nd place in the 7th ADCC of his career. In doing so, he was able to beat some of the toughest competitors in the division. Some of the competitors that he was able to beat in that tournament were JT Torres and Claudio Calasans.
Origins of the Name
Leo Vieira has been interested in Chess. With Jiu-Jitsu having parallelisms to chess, Leo Vieira decided to combine two concepts. Checkmat was formed from the words “Checkmate” and “Mats”. They’ve made use of the King as their logo when they formed the team.
Checkmat is known for its social project in Rio de Janeiro. Checkmat started a project in the slums of Cantalgalo. Ricardo Vieira started the Projeto Cantagalo which works with different communities in the areas of Cantagalo, Pavao, and Pavaozinho. The goal of this movement is to give kids the chance to explore the world of BJJ and take them away from the predominant gang mentality that’s dominant in these neighbourhoods. This social project has helped hundreds of youngsters every month and has produced some of the most talented competitors such as Alan do Nascimento and Bruno Matias.
The Birth of Zenith
Rodrigo Cavaca has become one of the top competitors and coaches that came from Checkmat. He was able to produce some of the best competitors in his academy in Sao Paulo including Marcus Buchecha, Michelle Nicolini, and Nivaldo Oliveira. In 2010, Cavaca won the 2010 World Title and the Brazilian National Title.
In 2013, Cavaca decided to form his own team, Zenith. He joined forces with Robert Drysdale to form a new competitive team. Their friendship started when Robert Drysdale and Cavaca were teammates in Brasa Clube de Jiujitsu. Today, Zenith has established 140 plus schools in all over the world including North America, Europe, and Australia.
A Worldwide Brand
Checkmat today is considered a worldwide brand. They’ve established teams in different parts of the world. They’ve established teams in Europe including Poland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, Spain, and France. As for their Asian affiliates, they have teams in the Philippines, Japan, China, Korea, and Singapore.
Checkmat is known for several competitors from different parts of the world. They’ve produced top-tier competitors including Gabriel Rollo, Finfao, Adam Wardzinski, and Jackson Sousa.
Gabriel Rollo, otherwise known as Palito, is a black belt under Cavaca. His nickname means toothpick because of his lanky frame. He is one of the top lightweight competitors of his time. He was able to medal in big tournaments including the South American Championship, the World Championship, The Pan American Championship, and the Euros.
Another Checkmat competitor today is Adam Wardzinski. Developing his butterfly game, he was able to win notable titles in UAEJJF, IBJJF, and even qualified for the ADCC.
Wardzinski is a black belt under Alan do Nascimento or Finfao. When Finfao was younger, he was part of the social project where the likes of Terere and Ricardo Vieira were teaching. Finfao started teaching in Sweden and then later met Adam Wardzinski in Poland.
Checkmat is a successful organization that has produced a good number of competitors from different parts of the world. The Vieira brothers were able to lead the organization by example by with their competitive results and their willingness to put their skin in the game despite the odds against them.