ABU DHABI // Marcos Oliveira and his wife Caroline de Lazzer, the former UAE women’s jiu-jitsu national team coach, are staging a comeback in the sport after a two-year sabbatical.
The couple married in September 2011, and De Lazzer gave birth to a baby boy, Marcos Darkos, in March last year.
Having got through the pregnancy and their son’s development, they are both ready to take on the best in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2015 this week.
“It was always the plan to return to competition after the baby,” De Lazzer said. “I started to prepare my return three months after the baby was born. It wasn’t easy as I had to split my time between breastfeeding, nursing, working and training,” she said.
De Lazzer, 34, represented the Brazil national team in wrestling, winning silver medals at the South American Games in 2006.
She was world champion in jiu-jitsu (brown belt) in the same year and silver medallist (black belt) in 2010.
For De Lazzer, returning to competition after becoming a mother has been her toughest challenge yet.
“My first challenge was to get fit and shed 25kgs that I had gained during the pregnancy,” she said. “Now I’m ready to compete again.
“To go straight into the World Pro without any pre-match preparation is tough but I am ready for the challenge. My goal was to return to competition this year and then think of winning it next year.”
Her husband, on the other hand, his well tuned for his return, winning gold at both the Al Ain and Sharjah Opens in his lead-up to the World Pro. The World Pro is a big step-up from the two warm-up competitions but Oliveira, 36, says he is in top shape.
“I am back doing what I know best and what I enjoy best but this time I have an extra motivation to do it for our son,” Oliveira said. “It is too early to say what the future holds for my kid but we both would like to see him grow up watching us competing and coaching jiu-jitsu.”
After the World Pro, Oliveira is set to face a challenge fight (No-Gi) against American Dean Lister, a former mixed martial art (MMA) middleweight champion, at the Abu Dhabi Fighting Festival arranged by the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Kick Boxing Federation on May 3.
Oliveira also has experience in MMA and was invited to compete in the Dh1 million Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship Grand Prix in March 2012. He knocked out Johan Romming with a ferocious right hook and won a unanimous points decision over Neil Wain but lost to Shamil Abdulrahimov by TKO in the final.
“MMA was not my game but I did it on a request, and for the country and its fans that have given me so much in terms of a good living and the opportunity to work in the UAE,” Oliveira said.
Like his wife Oliveira also represented the Brazil national wrestling team before taking up jiu-jitsu at age of 20. They arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2009 as instructors for the Abu Dhabi government schools programme.
De Lazzer was appointed the first coach of the UAE women’s team in 2011. She prepared Shamsa Hassan to become the first Emirati female world champion by winning her weight class in the white belt at the 2012 World Pro.
De Lazzer played a big part in leading a campaign to lift the hijab ban in competitions with the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation until the rule was amended last year.
“Me and Marcos have very fond memories of the time we started as coaches in the school programme and see the remarkable growth of the sport in the UAE,” De Lazzer said. “We enjoyed every bit of it, from being coaches for the kids and then the national team. It is a new phase of our lives and we have decided to move on by starting our own private coaching.”
The couple established the Abu Dhabi Top Team two years ago. “There are more than 600 coaches, both black and brown belts, in the UAE and that’s the demand for coaching. So there is plenty of opportunity for us to start on our own,” De Lazzer said.
For now though, both De Lazzer and her husband are just concentrating on their own returns to the mat.
Follow us on twitter at @NatSportUAE