Picture by RibeiroPhoto
“I fear no woman when I step on the mat.”
Amanda Alequin (also known as Amanda Santana Benavides, but even better known as ‘Tubby’) is no stranger to the competition scene. Having won the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds last year – her first No-Gi Worlds as a black belt – and having competed at the ADCC World Championship in 2015, her eyes were set on gold this past weekend at ADCC 2017. She faced Gabi Garcia, this year’s ADCC World Champion in the very first round. We talk about her experiences, mindset and more!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Amanda Alequin, and I’m a black belt under Marcio Cruz. I’m 23 years old and I’ve been training for 8 years. Since day 1 I’ve been an active competitor.
You are nicknamed ‘Tubby’, why is that?
I used to be heavy (around 80kg) when I was 12 years old, so my sister used it as a way to insult me when we would fight, haha. Even though I started jiu jitsu at 15 years old and lost weight, the name kind of stuck. It’s so common that people don’t even know my real name!
But you don’t mind the nickname?
Absolutely not, I think it’s pretty cool!
Do you train fulltime?
My husband and I have our own martial arts school: Hands Down – Martial Arts West Palm Beach. We started our school four years ago. I teach classes there and train there every day. Whenever I can, I visit Marcio’s. It’s four hours away from my home so when I go I make a trip out of it.
I also work part-time in a veterinarian clinic. I don’t see that as work really, because I love animals so much, and it’s just so much fun to be there! So it’s more like a hobby.
You live in Florida. What kind of animals do you work with?
I work mostly with dogs and cats, since the clinic is for regular house pets. But we also have an exotic doctor that works here. So I see a bunch of things like baby deers, squirls, racoons, tortoises, snakes, birds, you name it!
The first time you competed at the ADCC World Championship was in 2015, after you won the US East-Coast trials. You fought in the +60kg division, being one of the smallest competitors in that division. Why did you not go down a lighter division?
At that time, I was a little bit heavier than at this year’s ADCC; I walked around at around 70kg. But still, I don’t cut weight. I like to fight with the way my body is, because that is its natural state.
“I don’t cut weight.”
Then you flew to Brazil to fight at the ADCC World Championship 2015. How did that go?
In the semi-finals, I faced the girl would turn out to be that ADCC’s Champion, Ana Laura Cordeiro. I lost to her by 3 points. Then I was up to fight for third place, against Gabi Garcia.
What were your thoughts going into that match?
When I step on the mat, I fear no woman. I don’t care how many titles you have, how big you are or what you’ve done. You bleed like I bleed, you speak like I speak. There is no difference, we are both human. The only fears I have when I’m fighting are getting injured or hurt. But I never fear the person I’m fighting. So that made me very excited when I was going to fight her. I was smiling and jumping around!
“I don’t care how many titles you have; you bleed like I bleed, there is no difference.”
What happened during the fight against Gabi?
We shook hands and the match started. It was an intense fight. My game is guard, and I believe in my guard no matter what happens. From there, I went for several submissions. I set up 3 heelhooks, but every time she escaped out of it. I went for a kneebar, but she also got out of that.
The match went into overtime. I noticed her knee was messed up, so I shot for a takedown. Then she sprawled and I was in turtle. From then it went pretty much like this: I’d get out of the turtle position and locked up a triangle from there. But then she’d get up and since I didn’t want to be slammed, I let go of the triangle. We scrambled, and I was forced back into turtle.
The match ended in a referee decision. Who won?
Gabi got the win. I love Gabi, I respect her, but I really thought I won the match because I thought I was the more active competitor. It seemed like the crowd disagreed with the referee decision. But nevertheless, it was a really exciting and fun match, and I was happy with it.
At this year’s ADCC, you were seeded to fight against her in the very first match! What did you think when you saw the bracket?
Coming to ADCC, I thought: “I want them to give Gabi to me first.” I always want to fight the person everyone thinks is going to win. So I was happy with the bracket.
How did your fight against Gabi go this time?
Unfortunately, this time she surprised me! I think she knew my game and was better prepared for it. She knew that the only reason I got so close to beating her in 2015, was because of my continuous attacks. So when the match started, I went for an armbar. She escaped and then I went for a heelhook.
As I went belly-down, we ended up in a scramble in which I left my leg out. That was all she needed: she grabbed my foot, and I started rolling out of it, but she was already cranking my foot. It popped, but I thought it was fine, so I kept turning. Then it popped again – 3 times! I looked up to my husband and he saw my face that said “I can’t.” So I tapped. It took her only 57 seconds to beat me.
“Gabi grabbed my foot, and that was all she needed.”
Were you scared your foot was badly injured?
Well, the referee scared me quite a bit. He looked at my foot and said: “It’s already bruising and swelling!” I didn’t know if that was a bad sign. But the medic checked it after I put some ice on it and assured me it wasn’t broken. I’m grateful for that and I can walk on it now.
After the fight, Gabi came up to me and asked if I was allright. Also at the hotel, she checked on me again – so sweet of her.
Was there anything different between this year’s ADCC and 2015 in terms of mental preparation?
Not really, to be honest. I think one of the strongest things that I have is my mental attitude. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the ghetto. Nothing compares to what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through. A tournament is not a life or death situation, so I feel my background has given me a strong mental attitude.
Besides your background, what are the other things you do that give you a mental edge for competition?
I like to visualize my victories. I do this by meditating: In my head, I live through the moment of winning the match, without it even happening. And in training, when I submit someone, my husband will cheer as-if in a competition and say: “And your new 2017 World Champion is…!”
“Believe in yourself. You could have a 1000 people believing in you, but if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point?”
You fought Ana Carolina Vieira Srour in the final at the Abu Dhabi World Pro this year. That was an exciting match! How did that go?
First of all, I love Ana Carolina. She is awesome. The funny thing is that off the mat we’re hugging each other and giggling. But on the mat, it’s like we don’t know each other and it’s all business.
“I always smile when I compete.”
It was a good match. I fought her once already, so I knew she’s strong on top. But I’m strong on bottom. I pulled guard, and this time I was more confident than the first time I faced her. She was putting on the pressure, but I was determined not to let her pass my guard. She tried to pass me a few times, and I almost scored points for a takedown and almost came up for a sweep.
It was just the little mistakes I made that made her the winner that match. But it was a very nice fight and everyone thought it was super exciting. That’s what I like to go for: even if I lose I want to put up a great fight and want everyone to be like: “That was a great match!”
What advice would you give to competitors for a good mindset?
Never doubt yourself. At the end of the day, everyone here is human. You’re just like me: we might come from a different club, but at the end of the day, we’re the same. There is no difference between us.
And believe in yourself. You could have a 1000 people that believe in you, but if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point? I always tell this to my students: I could believe in you to the moon and back, but if you don’t believe in yourself, what good does that do?
No doubt, a positive mental attitude, that’s it.
And you always smile when you compete?
Yes, I’m always smiling, always excited to go, no matter who it is.
There was no open weight at ADCC for women. What are your thoughts on this, and on the women’s division in general at ADCC?
I wish there was open weight for women! As for a more general view, I think we are busy working our way up in the jiu jitsu world. I’ve heard some controversy about the very small coverage of the women’s division at ADCC. We don’t have the same numbers yet – there’s just more men than us. In a couple of years we’ll have more women competing and we’ll have more exposure. Hopefully, also more equal pay. Down the road, in the future, I hope it will grow. Because we train just as hard as the guys, if anything, harder!
What are your plans for the future?
I got invited for the next EBI Female Bantamweight card. I don’t know yet when that will be. Further more, I’m planning on doing the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds, and of course the Abu Dhabi World Pro and the IBJJF Worlds.