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How BJJ helped Brazilian Cleber Sousa to escape poverty

LockerRoom Team
29 March 2023

Cleber Sousa grew up in a cramped family maintained by his single mother on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Despite the fact that he missed many of the pleasures that a more affluent upbringing may have provided, the 27-year-old looks back on his childhood fondly, focusing on the good times rather than the challenges.

“Despite all the difficulties, I was a very happy child. I am the son of a single mother, and I have always lived with my mother, who raised me and my brothers alone. My mother had seven children and adopted two more. She had a very big heart,” he recalled in an interview with ONE Championship.

Sousa discovered jiu-jitsu at the age of 13 when a cousin took him to the Almeida Jiu-Jitsu social initiative.

The programme helps poor children to learn and train BJJ for free, and "Clandestino" quickly discovered his love for "the gentle art."

“As soon as I arrived at the project, I immediately went to play ‘pass the teacher’s guard.’ Even without understanding anything, I put my fight instinct out and just went for it (laughs). I did my best even without any technique. In the first classes, I already fell in love with jiu-jitsu, and I never stopped training,” he added.

Sousa adopted daily training as his habit, preferring to spend his time on the mats rather than on the streets, finding inspiration in the progressive process of improvement.

He was hooked for life once he started competing.

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Sousa has had a lot of success in grappling contests over the last decade, winning an IBJJF Brown Belt World Championship as well as a Pan American and Brazilian National Championship as a black belt.

“In jiu-jitsu, you have to overcome yourself every day. When I started participating in competitions, I fell even more in love with this sport,” he added.

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