For most martial artists, their family and their chosen journey are usually the two biggest motivators in life. They are not always mutually exclusive, but to Alexandre “Bebezao” Machado, they are inseparable.
The BJJ black belt has trained in the martial arts for three decades, and it reaches a crescendo at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD when he challenges ONE Middleweight World Champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang for the vacant ONE Light Heavyweight World Title.
Machado will be competing in front of his opponent’s passionate supporters in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, 23 February, but that does not bother him. After all, this match will be the culmination of a life’s work for “Bebezao.”
From the age of 5 years old, Machado’s dad taught him Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as he was already a well-established professor of “the gentle art.” Not only did it help in his son’s personal development by providing him discipline and focus, but it also forged a unique bond in their relationship.
“He has taught me and passed down the knowledge until the final days of his life,” the 35-year-old Rio De Janeiro, Brazil native reveals. “He is the master who has taught me all I know, while he was still alive.”
Sadly, the family patriarch passed away when Machado was just 13 years of age, when the police officer was killed in the line of duty. Nonetheless, the seed had already been planted, and it was up to “Bebezao” to carry on his father’s legacy and keep the jiu-jitsu he had been taught alive.
The intrinsic links to family and martial arts did not weaken when Machado’s father passed away. In fact, it remained the glue that helped to bind them together, and it helped maintain their strong bonds.
To this day, every family member helps to keep the academy, Familia Machado Jiu-Jitsu, running.
“My whole family trains jiu jitsu,” he continues. “My sister is also a black belt, and helps me at the gym. She is a school teacher, but she trains girls there. My brother [Ruan], to whom I passed down all my knowledge, helps me work, and my mother helps us all.”
Although the Machados all play a role in the running and upkeep of their family academy, it was the nurturing of another ‘father-son’ type of bond that provides the driving force.
“Bebezao” became much more than a big brother to Ruan. He emulated the life-changing ideas his father had shared with him, and passed on “the gentle art” to his sibling, as well as the respect that comes with it.
“Because my brother was little [when their father died], he did not understand that much, so he started seeing me as a father figure, and I helped in his upbringing,” he says. “In sports, I was practically a father to him, being an older brother and father at the same time.”
Again, taking the lessons from his dad, it established an unbreakable bond, and ultimately led them to this point — brothers by blood, brothers in business, and brothers on the mat.
“Nowadays, we work together, we are partners, and we share the gym fifty-fifty. [We] share all the work. Him being a professional athlete as well, we switch roles — when one competes, the other coaches, and vice versa.”
With merely ten days to go until he receives his world title opportunity in Yangon, this family affair has shaped Machado every day of his life.
It will not be easy to defeat Aung La N Sang, especially with thousands of his Myanmar supporters cheering him on. But the martial arts lifestyle is in Machado’s blood, and he has had a lifetime of preparation. He is not just competing for himself, but also for his family’s honor.