MMA Training and a BBQ in a Rio de Janeiro Favela

Andarai is a favela near Tijuca in the North Zone of the city, and on Saturday afternoon Antoine called and asked if Nicole and I wanted to go with his family to the UPP (police) station and then a BBQ there.

This blog is written by Connection Rio team member Torryn Heffelfinger. He blogs weekly on life and training BJJ, wrestling and MMA in Rio de Janeiro. In the following excerpt from his weekly blog “Training the Dream”, he talks about MMA Training and a BBQ in a Rio de Janeiro favela.

Driving in Antoine’s black SUV we rode with the windows down as to not attract unwanted attention (military police and BOPE also use black SUVs and we didn’t want people to think we were them). When we got into the favela all eyes were on Nicole and I. However, and let me stress this, the looks we got were not of anger but rather curiosity over why we were there. I got the impression that this favela doesn’t get much gringo traffic coming through.

We made our way to the UPP HQ and to the small training area within it. The small room in the UPP houses Dark Wolf MMA. The Team is ran by Walmor Silva da Souza, Marcelo Leite de Medieros and others. Walmor and Leite also help run the kids UPP wrestling program for Andarai.

The MMA training area is small but nice, the end wall of the room is caged off. Antoine showed some MMA wrestling techniques and I showed some ways to get into the takedown from boxing. I also had the opportunity to hold mitts for some of the kids and fighters. One of the kids Matheus, is getting ready for his first fight so I spent a while with him correcting and showing techniques. You could tell everyone was appreciative and excited to have me there to help and I was more than happy to oblige.

After training we headed farther up the hill to a small churrasco (BBQ) restaurant. We sat for the next couple of hours talking and laughing while platter after platter of steak, chicken, and sausage came off the charcoal grill in the back. The view as the sun set and the night sky of Rio was simply amazing. We then played several games of billiards and listen to Brazilian music (and a little Snoop Dogg). As we left the crowds were filing in, playing games and dancing Samba while they laughed and ate great food. We all walked back down the hill where we said our goodbyes and headed back to Barra.

The training in Rio is great, but the hospitality and friendliness of the Brazilian people is hard to match anywhere else in the world. It is great experiences like this that will stick out in my mind for years to come.

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