Team Nova União has been one of the most prominent Jiu Jitsu affiliations since its formation in the late 1990s. Not only has Nova União produced some of the best Jiu Jitsu athletes, but several all time great MMA fighters have emerged from their training facilities.
Here is what you need to know about team Nova União and how they came to be. We’ll look at how the team was created, their rise to power, and where they’re at today.
The History of Nova União
The groundwork for the formation of team Nova União started in 1995, starting with two BJJ instructors from Rio de Janeiro developing a friendship with one another.
André “Dedé” Pederneiras ran Pederneiras Jiu Jitsu and Wendell Alexander ran a Jiu Jitsu program at the nearby Mello Tênis Clube.
The two would constantly run into each other while coaching their students at different BJJ tournaments. While sometimes Jiu Jitsu coaches have a reputation for tribalism and regarding one another as ‘enemies,’ Dedé and Alexander actually became friends through these run-ins.
There was one tournament that Pederneiras couldn’t make, so he asked Alexander to coach his students that were competing. Then a few months later, Wendell couldn’t make a tournament and Dedé agreed to help coach his students.
The formation of Nova União
After Alexander and Pederneiras helped each other out by coaching each other’s students at different tournaments, they came to a realization: They realized that they were stronger together than apart. Especially if they wanted to compete against the bigger schools like Gracie Barra and Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
The two would bring their teams together and form team Nova União, a name that means “new union” in English, which was exactly what this joining of two high level schools was.
This team formed in late 1995 right before the first official Jiu Jitsu World Championship in 1996. The BJJ world didn’t know it, but Nova União was poised to become a force on the competition scene.
Nova União makes a splash
At the first Jiu Jitsu World Championship, Nova União had a strong showing in their international debut. They didn’t win any medals within the black belt divisions, but took home seven medals in the lower ranks.
In the 1997 Jiu Jitsu World Championship, the team would make an even bigger splash taking home twenty eight medals. That performance would help Nova União win their first team championship.
Of those twenty eight medals, nineteen of them were earned in the lower weight divisions. This success at the lower weight classes gave Nova União the reputation of producing the best lightweight BJJ athletes.
They would continue dominating the lightweight divisions during the late 1990s and their students won multiple championships, including their first generation black belts and BJJ legends Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Robson Moura.
Nova União departs from competing in IBJJF competitions
In 2002, Nova União decided that they would no longer support the IBJJF or compete in their tournaments. Instead, they would support the newly formed Confederação Brasileira de Jiu Jitsu Olímpico (CBJJO).
The CBJJO was an alternative Jiu Jitsu governing body that promised to pay top athletes who competed in their tournaments. Pederneiras and Alexander wanted to give their athletes the opportunity to make money competing, so they joined this new federation.
Nova União would not return to BJJF events until five years later in 2007.
Nova União becomes an MMA powerhouse
Along with producing some of the best lightweight BJJ athletes in the world, the team also produced top MMA athletes.
In the late 2000s/early 2010s, team Nova União produced two UFC world champions: UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao.
Pederneiras steps down from Nova União
In 2018, Andre Pederneiras decided to step down as leader of Nova União after twenty one years. Deciding to open his own academy Upper Arena that is unaffiliated and geared more towards social work within Rio de Janeiro.
Although Pederneiras is no longer the head of Nova União, he still trains fighters at the main gym in Rio in addition to running his own gym.
Nova União’s top competitors
Team Nova União has had a number of great athletes fly their flag. Not only in BJJ, but also produced some all time great MMA athletes. Here are some of their top competitors.
A name synonymous with Nova União is MMA legend José Aldo. He currently holds the record for longest title reign in the UFC Featherweight division at 1848 days.
Even 3 decades into his fighting career, Aldo is still proving that he’s a top MMA fighter. As of now, Aldo is currently ranked 2nd in the UFC Bantamweight division.
One of the all time best lightweight BJJ competitors is 1st generation Nova União black belt Robson Moura. During his time as part of team Nova União, he won five world championships.
Moura now runs his own affiliation, Robson Moura Nations United.(RMNU)
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro was another first generation Nova União black belt. He is credited with the team’s early success in BJJ competitions – winning three world titles at black belt.
Ribeiro went on to compete in MMA and earned a record of 20-5. Today, Shaolin runs his own school Vitor Shaolin BJJ.
FAQs about Nova União
Who Founded Nova União?
Nova União was founded by André “Dedé” Pederneiras and Wendell Alexander.
What does Nova União mean?
The Portuguese name Nova União means “new union” in English.
When was Nova União founded?
Nova União was founded in late 1995.
How many Nova União affiliate schools are there?
Nova União is an international Jiu Jitsu federation with associate schools around the world. They currently have schools throughout North America, South America, and Europe.
Who is the current head of Nova União?
The current president of Nova União is UFC veteran Leo Santos.
Where is Nova União headquartered?
The main Nova União school is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Nova União today
When Pederneiras and Alexander joined forces in 1995, they had no idea just how big their school would get. Nova União has become an international Jiu Jitsu affiliate with affiliate schools all over the world.
Not only are they known for producing top BJJ athletes, but also elite MMA athletes. They are a well respected BJJ affiliation and look like they’ll continue to grow for many years to come.