Natan Chueng, a 24-year-old native of the Cantagalo Favela, has worked his way through the ranks to earn his black belt from Cicero Costha.
Like most students from low-income areas, the high cost of jiu-jitsu caused Chueng to take a hiatus in his training, but at 16 he was able to return to the sport thanks to free classes offered by Cantagalo Jiu-Jitsu, a small social project, that at the time was affiliated with Rico Vieira’s Checkmat academy that is located at the base of the favela in Copacabana.
It was there that he made his way up the ranks to brown belt until 2018 when his hard work and dedication got him an opportunity to travel to Sao Paulo to train with Cicero Costha in 2018. It was there at Projeto Social Lutando Pelo Bem (PSLB) that Chueng earned his black belt from Costha in June of 2019.
was definitely not an easy transition. A young kid growing up in the favela he was often in trouble at school or at home. Jiu-jitsu and other sports made a huge impact on his life and his family was always there to take care of him and support him.
Moving to Sao Paulo meant leaving the comfort and familiarity of everything he had known growing up. It would be the first time he left home, homecooked meals, and afternoons on Ipanema beach with childhood friends. But Chueng was passionate about the sport and determined to make everything work out.
“I believe that when we have a goal, we can overcome any obstacle, there is no limit to our power.”
Chueng’s new teammates welcomed him to Sao Paulo and treated him like family, a gesture that made acclimating to a new city and a new team a lot easier. Now, thanks to the sport, Chueng has been able to travel and claim major titles in Brazil, the United States, and Europe. Finding financing was a struggle at first, but he’s jiu-jitsu has become his career.
“Difficulty will always exist in anyone’s life, but I believe that for those who come from a lower social position like the one I came from, our difficulty is already double, because we have to worry about the training, what we are going to eat, how are we going to pay for the next championship, lack of sponsorship, etc.
I had a hard time trying to 4x the US visa and being denied, I think the big tip is never to give up on your dreams, it will work, there is no plan B, if you believe and work hard on it will work.
Try to keep yourself surrounded by like-minded people who help you grow, never lose focus, and no matter how many times life knocks you down, always be ready to get up! A champion is molded through the hard days he has been through!”