SPC. Cody Muzio
COLUMBIANA, Ala. – When the Alabama National Guard Pfc. Elioenai Campos enters the Colosseum in July, it will be the culmination of 26 years of blood, sweat and tears.
Campos, an infantryman assigned to the 1-167th Infantry Battalion, will represent the United States in jiu-jitsu at the 2022 World Games on July 15 in Birmingham. The World Games are a multidisciplinary international competition similar to (and held in coordination with) the Olympic Games that is held every four years to recognize the best athletes in more than 30 unique sports.
“It’s amazing,” Campos said. “I feel like everything in my life and everything I’ve done happened right now right now.”
Campos is from Manaus, Brazil, where he grew up too poor to afford more than two meals a day. At age 10, he says, he started working to help earn money for his family – and to buy his first jiu-jitsu gi.
To escape their poverty, his father encouraged him to “not just leave town, but leave the country”. Campos saw Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as his ticket to do so.
After more than a decade of training, he was given the opportunity to compete for the 2011 South American BJJ Championship. Due to a lack of money and sponsorship, Campos slept on the floor of a Argentinian police station the night before the tournament, but he still managed to claim the gold the next day.
“When I won, I finally felt it was worth giving it all – every little piece you have – for something bigger,” he said.
Winning the continent’s top prize, he said, gave him the sporting qualifications he needed to get a visa approved and fund his move to the United States.
Since then, he has opened his own dojo in Columbiana and joined the Alabama National Guard to give back to the country he has worked for all his life.
Col. Mike Davenport, director of military support for the Alabama National Guard, met Campos through their shared passion for the BJJ sport.
“He’s a belt higher than me, so I’ve always seen him in competitions and watched him ride,” Davenport said. “I’ve always been impressed with him. Whatever he does, he does it 100% and with all his heart. And not just 100% physical effort. He puts everything there. »
That’s why, Davenport added, he was eager to help Campos through the enlistment process and why Campos’ graduation from U.S. Army Basic Combat Training in 2021 was a no-brainer. a “huge victory”.
“Knowing his story, I was ready to fight for him,” he said. “He is determined to do what needs to be done, he has the tenacity to pursue what needs to be done, and he has a sincere love and a sincere desire to do his best for his country.
“You can’t buy that kind of patriotism,” Davenport said.
To prepare for the World Games, Campos traveled the state, the country and even Brazil for intensive training with masters of the sport.
But even at home, he said, his life was intensely regulated in order to be in top shape.
Campos trains at three different gyms four times a day five days a week, with a different training schedule on Saturdays and a single rest day each Sunday. His diet and supplement intake are also regulated to keep him strong, energetic and at his registered competition weight, while adhering to strict anti-doping policies enforced by the International World Games Association and the Olympic Committee.
It’s the kind of dedication that others called him crazy when he was younger, but he said it would only be crazy if he stopped.
“You can’t give up on things until you give the last of yourself,” he said. “If you’re still sweating, that means you have more to give. Until you dry out completely, you have to keep working and working.
After so much training and a lifetime of preparation, Campos said he was ready to win it all at the World Games.
“Thinking of all my work, my journey and all my support,” he said, “it can’t go wrong. I’m just going to get something that’s mine. to go get it.”
“I think he’s going to win,” he said.
“He’s got the skills, he’s got the physical ability, and if it comes down to desire and drive,” Davenport trailed off, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head, “you’re not going to beat him.”
As the walls of Campos’ dojo – lined with dozens of medals – can attest, he’s won plenty of tournaments before, but he says there’s a big difference this time around.
“This time, Campos said, I’m not fighting for me, I’m not fighting for a team… I’m not fighting for the city.
“I will have an American flag on my back, fighting for this nation.”
The 2022 World Games jiu-jitsu matches are scheduled for July 15-16 starting at 9 a.m. on both days at Birmingham Southern College’s Bill Battle Coliseum and can be seen in person by purchasing tickets on www.twg2022.com or stream live online at www.olympics.com. Campos is expected to fight in the men’s 85kg weight class.