Giancarlo Bodoni is all in for the 2022 ADCC World Championships. In October, Bodoni left the security of his full-time teaching position at Bernardo Faria Academy outside of Boston to re-locate to Austin, TX, where he trains alongside Gordon Ryan under the tutelage of John Danaher.
The move came shortly after the famed Danaher Death Squad split up, with most of the former squad members moving from Puerto Rico to set up shop in Austin. Bodoni seized the opportunity and joned New Wave Jiu-Jitsu, the team formed by Danaher, Ryan, Garry Tonon, among other former DDS members.
“Ultimately I came to the decision, the time is now,” Bodoni told Grappling Insider. “From an aspect of being a professional grappler, I was in Boston teaching, so I had a full-time job there. I had to decide, it’s a little bit of a risk leaving, but I decided it was worth it and did it anyways and haven’t looked back since.”
It’s a move that has already paid off. in November, Bodoni won gold at the ADCC East Coast Trials, punching his ticket to the 2022 ADCC World Championships.
And while Bodoni had been considering a move to train with Danaher for some time, the decision did require some extra consideration. Namely, was Bodoni ready to stop competing in the gi?
“I knew there was some things I was gonna have to think about, like am I gonna keep competing in the gi… Where should I put my focus? Should I focus on no gi for a while?
“The thing is, because of the dramatic shift in viewership and just overall people being more interested in no-gi, putting on more no-gi tournaments, putting more money into it, especially from the aspect of being a professional grappler, what does that actually mean? To some degree you have to be compensated for the work that you’re doing. Most of — while it’s not a lot — most of the money is in no-ig competitions and superfights.”
Still just 26-years old, Bodoni plans to compete in the gi again and hopes to win a black belt world title in the gi. But for now, in this ADCC year, Bodoni is fully committed to no-gi competition with the ultimate goal of winning an ADCC championship, and he’s enjoying rounding out his game to be more no-gi specific.
“I have a pretty high motivation to train no-gi just because there’s a lot of learning for me right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of undiscovered things for me. Every day I’m in the gym learning something new and that’s fun for me. So I’m not in a huge rush to put the gi back on but I do enjoy it… But for right now my focus is so heavily on ADCC that I haven’t really looked past September, to be honest.”
Indeed, if winning an ADCC title is the goal, few could argue with Bodoni’s decision to join New Wave Jiu-Jitsu. He trains daily alongside Gordon Ryan — a 2019 ADCC double gold medalist that many consider to be the best pound-for-pound grappler in the world. That training takes place under the careful guidance of Danaher, who is arguably the most sought-after and well-respected instructor in the sport.
It may come as a surprise that this training atmosphere — among the absolute best in the world — is relatively relaxed.
“Training is pretty laid back,” Bodoni said. “It’s not a super intense environment. Our training sessions are around two hours. So it’s a least 45 minutes or so of drilling, then a little break before sparring, and we do mostly positional sparring, then we do full rounds from standing, basically like an ADCC match-style round. For the most part it’s pretty lighthearted… It’s basically like any other jiu-jitsu class but it’s very focused, you can tell the class has a lot of direction just because John [Danaher] is the one teaching… You can tell there’s a pattern to it, there’s a purpose behind what we’re doing. I’d say that’s the biggest difference.”
Since the move to Austin, Bodoni has evolved as a grappler — specifically with respect to his leg locks.
I had a hole in my game, especially for no-gi. I would go to no-gi tournaments, I’d primarily be training in the gi… Just the last two-and-a-half years when I was in Boston, pretty much all the classes were gi. We had one no-gi class a week. But I was competing a bunch no-gi, I was doing a bunch of no-gi tournaments. And I would keep losing to leg locks, so that was a hole in my game. Even though I practiced in the gym, I didn’t have a lot of training partners that were well versed in that area...
As time went on and I started training more intermittently with the squad at the time — John and Gordon, I started to become more exposed to that and I would find things I needed to work on and work on them for a couple months. Now, since I’ve been here, I’ve just been able to focus on that for the last how-many-ever months that I’ve been here. And I’ve just made a huge improvement in my leg game and how to incorporate the leg game into the other stuff that I was already good at, and how to intertwine it and create a synergy between those games.
Indeed, Bodoni won his most recent match against dangerous up-and-comer Felipe Costa by way of inside heel hook.
In September, Bodoni will make his ADCC debut in the 88 kg. division. And like any other bracket at the 2022 ADCC World Championships, Bodoni’s division is loaded with talent, including returning champion Matheus Diniz, 2019 silver medalist Craig Jones, and current two-division Who’s Number One champion Tye Ruotolo.
While Bodoni certainly respects his opponents and what they’re capable of, he’s ultimately focusing on himself and his game. And, consistent with the teaching of his instructor Danaher, Bodoni hopes to develop a game that works on every possible opponent, across all styles.
“I like to be aware of what my opponent does,” he said. “For example, you have guys like Craig [Jones], you have guys like Tye [Ruotolo], that are good at specific things. Craig’s really good on the legs, and obviously other aspects as well, but I’d say that’s probably his strong point. Then you have guys like Tye, who have crazy cardio and pace, and they have really dangerous d’arces and buggy chokes.
“There’s always something you have to watch out for, but… my main thing is how can I make my game work on everybody? I should be able to control somebody who keeps a really high volume of attacks. I should be able to control somebody who is very physically strong or explosive. I put my focus in training on being able to control people regardless of what they do, regardless of what their attributes are, what their strengths are.”