‘It Was Natural’ – How Bianca Basilio Channeled Her Rare Talent To Conquer The BJJ World
Elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Bianca Basilio has known nothing but success for essentially her entire competitive career.
On March 24 at ONE Fight Night 8 on Prime Video, the 27-year-old will return to face five-time BJJ World Champion Tammi Musumeci in one of the highest-level submission grappling matches ever staged in the Circle.
A two-time BJJ World Champion herself, Basilio has displayed a unique level of talent ever since she started training jiu-jitsu at a social project in Sao Paulo.
As she prepares for her highly anticipated strawweight clash with Musumeci at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in U.S. primetime, we trace the Brazilian’s path to greatness and ONE Championship.
‘I Had A Strong Temper’
An active, energetic, and athletically gifted child, Basilio was interested in trying practically everything under the sun, from capoeira, boxing, and Muay Thai to marching band, baton twirling, theater, soccer, and handball.
But when she discovered jiu-jitsu at the age of 12, she took to it immediately.
Despite the jovial personality we see today, the younger Basilio was much more inclined to fight – and fight often – showing an early knack for combat.
She told ONEFC.com:
“My father always said not to provoke anyone, but that if someone laid a hand on us, we should get the hell out of it, because he said we weren’t a punching bag. And he even said that if we were beaten, we would be beaten at home, too (laughs). But he also said that if I got into a fight, and I was wrong, it would get worse.
“I would fight in the street with kids, and when my brother got into a fight, we would go together. My energy was for that. When I wasn’t expending energy playing or practicing sports, I was expending energy fighting. I had a strong temper.”
Basilio’s penchant for aggression would earn her the respect (and fear) of her classmates at school, which seems wholly out of character for the woman who now wears a smile almost all the time.
“I always liked to do right, to be fair, and to stand up for my colleagues. But I wasn’t one to talk, I wasn’t one to get into arguments. At school, I didn’t have any real friends, but I think they’d rather be on my side than against me (laughs). The funniest thing is that you looking at me today, you can’t imagine that I was like that.”
A Life-Changing Path
After finding BJJ, the youngster began funneling all of her excessive energy into training sessions, transforming her life in the process.
And with her innate aptitude for the sport along with her focused dedication, she soon found herself competing at the international level.
“It was natural. After I started jiu-jitsu, a lot of things changed. My friendships changed. I started to commit myself more and more to the sport. I left school and got everything ready to go to training.
“After a few months of training, I got a scholarship to train at the gym. From then on, I stopped being a project girl and became a scholarship athlete. When I was close to getting my blue belt, at the age of 16, the idea of going to compete at the Worlds in the USA came up, but I didn’t think that would be possible. I trained all day, doing an average of five workouts a day. At that time I didn’t even know what it was, but my teacher, Caio Almeida, planted it in my heart and so we trained a lot.”
The teenage Basilio then scraped together the funds needed to travel to the United States and compete in the IBJJF World Championships.
Being outside of Brazil for the first time in her life, she could have easily been distracted or intimidated. But as she would do throughout her career, the rising star remained laser-focused on the task at hand – becoming a World Champion.
“I could have lost focus because I was in the United States, a place I dreamed of visiting. But when I got there I remember that I only left the hotel to do three things: train, eat and go to the gym. I didn’t want to go out to see anything, I just wanted to concentrate, I just kept thinking about my fight, what I was going to do to win, and listening to praise.”
Win is exactly what she did.
The Sao Paulo native captured gold as a blue belt at the World Championships and would go on to claim IBJJF World Titles at every colored belt before earning her black belt in 2016.
Then in 2019, Basilio reached the pinnacle of her career when she won gold at the prestigious ADCC World Championships.
These days, she looks back on her first World Championship competition as a blue belt as the moment when she knew she wanted to be in the sport for years to come:
“I decided that was what I wanted for my life when I came back from the Jiu-Jitsu Worlds. I already started thinking about the following year and started working to be at the Worlds again. I started saving money and organizing everything.”
Making Ends Meet
Basilio’s competitive success didn’t come without a price – literally.
Like many young jiu-jitsu athletes pursuing their dreams, she had to fund her competitive aspirations. With international travel expenses and pricey tournament fees, all without any prize money, Basilio’s primary focus outside of training was finding enough money to continue competing.
“My biggest difficulty was the financial issue. I’ve always struggled a lot on a daily basis to get every penny and thus pay for championship registrations. I always had a lot of help, my father always encouraged me a lot. He always said that if this is what I wanted to live for, that I should do my best, be the best, and do it without crossing anyone.”
Now competing on ONE’s global stage – and winning a US$50,000 performance bonus in her first appearance – the Brazilian is compensated fairly for her work as a full-time, world-class athlete.
But that wasn’t always the case.
At just 16 years old, when most kids were saving up for the newest video game or fashion trend, Basilio was pinching pennies and carefully using the US$40 she earned each month working the front desk of her gym:
“With that salary, I started to learn to manage my own money. I learned that if I spent two or 10 reais on nonsense, I would be two or 10 reais further from my dream.”
Setting New Goals In ONE Championship
From a teenager with a special knack for grappling to a multiple-time World Champion at the black belt level, Basilio has achieved practically everything she’s set out to accomplish.
And now a ONE Championship athlete, her newest ambition is to help others and inspire them to greatness.
“Quality of life, in all aspects, is what we all seek. And I want to change not only my life, I want to help improve my family’s life, help change the course of many young people and teenagers with whom I dedicate my time teaching.
“I know it’s possible, I came from a social project and today I live from fighting, and I believe that ONE can help me achieve my biggest goals in life and as a consequence of a life dedicated to sport. I want to be a star, and – not to brag or anything like that – but to be a light to the world, just like Jesus said to be to each other. I want to be a good example for more people to live something good in life.”
Of course, Basilio is currently honed in on the task at hand – defeating the dangerously talented Tammi Musumeci at ONE Fight Night 8.
Looking ahead to that submission-only affair on March 24, the Brazilian is simply excited to compete against the best, just as she has been for the past decade.
Above all, she expects a fun matchup, with each grappler having plenty of opportunities to showcase their world-class ground skills in front of a worldwide audience.
“I think we’re going to have a great fight. I’m a complete fighter, I feel good looking for takedowns, doing guard, or passing guard. Ten minutes without points is very good for the fight to unfold, as I think the athletes can expose themselves and move more between positions without worrying, because the focus is on submissions.”