- 27 May 2013 | Surfing
Kelly Slater has dressed his kimono and returned to the tatami. The 11-time world surfing champion has challenged Flavio Canto, a Brazilian judoka champion, for a jiu-jitsu combat.
It's an old passion. Kelly Slater has a special connection with martial arts, since he was a just another little Floridian kid.
"When I was eight or nine, I met a guy called Don Dragon Wilson, who had been a world kickboxing champion. Me and my brother enrolled in his academy and did karate for a while," tells Slater.
Slater always felt attracted by martial arts and only stopped training because of surfing.
"I've only learned more about jiu-jitsu when I visited Brazil for the first time, in 1982. I met and became friends with many people of the Gracie family. Rickson used to surf in California, and we exchanged surfboards for jiu-jitsu classes," adds the Floridian.
During the Billabong Rio Pro 2013, Kelly Slater visited Instituto Reação, an NGO founded by Flavio Canto to support low-income communities and get them into sports. He believes surfing and martial arts have many things in common.
"I think of it as steps. You start learning the basics, then you get more dynamic and want to be more efficient. I've read a lot about Bruce Lee throughout my life. You don't need to do a lot of things, but you should do it well," says Kelly Slater.
In the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) field, the US surfer is fan of Ricardo Arona, a retired Brazilian star, but also of Royce Gracie, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva and Jon Jones.
Will Jon Jones be the Kelly Slater of the Mixed Martial Arts? "I would love to be the Jon Jones of surfing. I think he won't lose for anyone, for a while."