From Impoverished To Empowered: Francisco Lo’s Journey To ONE Championship

Francisco Lo

Decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Francisco Lo will soon make his ONE Championship debut in what is the biggest opportunity of his career so far.

On Friday, April 5, at ONE Fight Night 21: Eersel vs. Nicolas on Prime Video, the promotional newcomer will clash with current lightweight submission grappling king Kade Ruotolo in a 180-pound catchweight match at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Set to air live in U.S. primetime, the showdown will mark Lo’s debut on the global stage and, more importantly, his shot at taking out one of submission grappling’s top pound-for-pound competitors.

The Brazilian’s climb to the top of the BJJ world has been far from easy.

‘I Was Always Beaten At School’

Lo grew up in the city of Manaus – a traditional hotbed for elite BJJ competitors.

His childhood was filled with struggle and strife. With an absent father and a mother who failed to make ends meet, a hard life was the only life he knew.

The 23-year-old recalled:

“My childhood was very difficult. My mother was unable to support the house. She worked as a maid, and I stayed with my grandmother. My father was an alcoholic, so I didn’t live with him. My father abandoned my mother when I was little. So I grew up being raised by my mother and grandmother.”

Beyond his troubled home life, Lo only found more struggles at school.

Hyper-active and undersized for his age, the youngster was often the favorite target for the bigger kids and regularly on the receiving end of beatings, forcing him to defend himself by any means necessary.

He said:

“I wasn’t popular at school. I also had a lot of difficulty learning. I took medication because I had an attention deficit when I was little. My mother gave me medicine so I could calm down. 

“I don’t know if it could be considered bullying, but I was always beaten at school. When I could, I would bite my classmates at school because it was the only defense I knew.”

Falling In Love With Jiu-Jitsu

The frequent fights and beatings continued. But luckily for Lo, he discovered the ground-fighting art of jiu-jitsu when he was 10 years old.

That discovery would mark a profound moment in his life – the shift from a constant victim to a confident and empowered individual.

Lo said:

“There were a lot of kids on my street who liked to fight, and as I was very thin. I couldn’t say anything, because anything I said, whether it was playing soccer or playing anything else, they would want to hit me. 

“I once got into a fight and got beaten up. That’s when I said enough. I said I was tired and that I was going to look for a martial art, and that’s when I started training jiu-jitsu.”

He was hooked instantly, finding a proper outlet for his endless energy while also learning to defend himself.

Up to that point, Lo had dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. But it was in the jiu-jitsu training room that he found his true passion.

He said:

“I think it was the fighting itself that made me fall in love with martial arts. Over time I saw that what I really liked was training jiu-jitsu, even more than soccer, which until then was my passion. In jiu-jitsu I felt complete, and that’s why I fell in love with martial arts.”

Making Jiu-Jitsu A Career

Lo quickly showed a natural aptitude for submission grappling and was soon training at every possible opportunity. 

Despite his passion for the sport, it wasn’t until he visited the city of Sao Paulo that he knew he could make jiu-jitsu his life.

Lo said:

“I realized that I could pursue a career in jiu-jitsu when I went to Sao Paulo for the first time, still with a green belt. I saw the greatest jiu-jitsu athletes fighting in big events, and I saw that I could make a living from the sport because these athletes were also able to make a living from jiu-jitsu.”

To make a career in jiu-jitsu possible, Lo knew he would need to pursue bigger, more lucrative opportunities in the United States. 

With the financial backing of his friends and supporters in Brazil, he made the move to North America and has since established himself as a world-class submission hunter. There, he has racked up major titles, including IBJJF Pan-American and American National Championships.

He said:

“I always had the dream of living in the United States ever since I found out that the IBJJF World Championship and other big events were taking place in the USA. And I knew that in the United States, I could make money with jiu-jitsu. The life of an American is very different from that of a Brazilian — you have opportunities.”

Arriving At ONE Championship

With his troubled beginnings in the streets of Manaus behind him, Lo is now just days away from his much-anticipated ONE debut against one of the promotion’s biggest stars.

He recognizes that Ruotolo – who is the youngest-ever ADCC World Champion and undefeated across five thrilling matches in ONE – presents an incredibly difficult test. 

But the Brazilian said that difficult challenges are exactly what he’s after, and ONE’s massive platform will give him the chance to showcase his immense talent on a global scale:

“The challenges were certainly the main reason for me to join ONE Championship. The grappling division has grown a lot at ONE Championship, and I saw an opportunity to appear and show my jiu-jitsu to the world. 

“I’m very excited to make this debut, and I want to put on a show for the crowd. And, of course, I want to come away with the victory and make a career in ONE Championship.”

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