Born in Rio de Janeiro, Rafael Costa began training BJJ at the age of 11. With the encouragement of his mother, at a time when Jiu Jitsu was still considered a sport for bullies and troublemakers, Rafael trained at a small academy in the town where he lived. After moving back to Rio as a teen, he started training at Gracie Barra where he became friends with several members of the Gracie family.
But Rafael's first sport choice was soccer. He had dreams of becoming a professional soccer player, and pursued that dream to the professional level in Brazil. Admittedly Rafael was "good but maybe not good enough" and after six months playing professionally, he realized he would not be able to make a good living playing soccer. That was when he set his sites on making a career out of BJJ. While working in his father's restaurants in Rio, Rafael began training BJJ up to five times a week.
While a purple belt, Rafael was invited to the US by his good friend from Gracie Barra, Greggor Gracie. He began assisting Greggor, Rolles, and Igor Gracie at the world famous Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC. Speaking very little English, Rafael was nervous about teaching in America but was pushed by his friends, eventually becoming a full time instructor.
Simultaneously, Rafael began stepping up his BJJ competition game. Competing often Rafael would win what he considers his greatest BJJ achievement, taking home the bronze medal at the Worlds IBJJF Championship in the brown belt division. Still competing heavily today, Rafael has amassed an incredible 11 gold medals at the black belt level in IBJJF competition.
Rafael can still be found instructing at Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan, and is also an instructor and co-owner at Greggor Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Brooklyn with his childhood friend from Rio, Greggor Gracie.
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