It has taken some time to arrange this interview with Alan, partly because he recently became a father again and also because he has been busy preparing MMA fighters at Allstars for their fights. However, finally we meet and we had prepared for a touching conversation. If we hadn’t had a time limit for the interview we would probably have continued talking forever; Alan is a very open person with a lot of thoughts and he is happy to share them. A big part of who Alan is today comes from his background in Brazil which is why we start with focus on that.

Life in the favela – Love, fights and drug wars

Alan was born 34 years ago in Jardim de Catarina, one of the most dangerous favelas outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He later moved to another favela called Cantagalo, and that’s the place he considers his home. “To describe Cantagalo I would chose the words danger, peaceful, happiness and home. It’s considered dangerous by most people who’ve never been there, peaceful by us who grew up there, happiness because of how the people live and home because it’s where I feel safe. Every time I go back to Brazil I return to my home, and I still have the same friends there. Of course it was very tough to grow up in the favela but it is what it is. A rich person hasn’t asked to be born rich and a poor person hasn’t asked to be born poor. We are all born into certain circumstances and we have to do the best of it. We always had to fight hard for everything we wanted, something those who were born with everything never had to do.”

”You had to stick to those from your favela to make it, it was all about survival”

”The poor in Brazil, the kids from the favelas, go to public schools where there are hardly any teachers at all. My school was one of these and there were fights every single day, which isn’t strange considering that they put guys from ten different favelas in the same classroom. You had to stick to those from your favela to make it, it was all about survival. The police were constantly visiting and the teachers were afraid to work in such an environment. All of us kids went to school without any expectations what so ever, since you are taught in the favela that everybody die young. The fights most often started in the football pitch and I took a lot of beating as I was rather small. But I never showed any fear, which was most important, because I knew that if I chickened out in a fight my friends would kick my ass instead. If I would come home and cry in front of my father or grandparents they would beat me. There were many times I got beaten in school, cried all my way home until I was just outside the door, wiped the tears and walked in as if nothing had happened.”

According to Alan most people in the favela get involved in the drug business because it’s basically the only way to make a living. For a poor kid with dark skin color from an area considered bad, it’s more or less impossible to get a regular job. He explains that none of his friends or family members who sold drugs wanted to do it, but they didn’t see any alternative. Unfortunately the drug war has taken the lives of several loved ones close to Alan. “The first person I lost was my godfather, who controlled the favela Jardim de Catarina together with my father. When I was six years old my father got taken by the police and put in jail, and at the same time my godfather got killed. Our favela got taken over by a rival gang, which led to me, my mother and sister being kicked out from our home. My sister moved in with her godmother while my mom and I had to live on the street. Eventually my grandmother found us and took us to Cantegalo where I could stay with them. Later on, my father managed to take over another favela and continue his drug business there, but he ended up losing his life. One of my brothers had also gotten involved and one day when he was 14 years old his gang was on its way to a rival favela when they were suddenly confronted by the police and he got killed. My brother ended up in the same situation and in 2010, on my birthday, I received a phone call with the information that he had been shot dead by the police. He had been involved in a well-known event in which a police helicopter was shot down and it was just a matter of time before they would catch him. All the people who were involved in the helicopter shooting got killed.

”In the favela we saw people get killed almost every day, we experienced things that others can't even imagine”

”All of this created a chaos in the family, especially for my mother. I’m very sad for my brothers and my father, I love them, but they made their choices and they paid the price for them. But the true suffering hit the ones that remain, i.e. my mom, my sister and myself. Now that I’m a parent myself it’s even more difficult for me to understand how it would be to lose a child, and my mother lost two! I have bought a house for my mom and sister in a better area so that I can relax, knowing that they’re okay. The last thing my father asked me for, just before he died, was that I would take care of my mother and sister. He failed with that so he trusted me with it. The circumstances forced me to become an adult at a very young age. In the favela we saw people get killed almost every day, we experienced things that others can’t even imagine and of course that has affected me. I know that I’m sometimes too hard on my son, for example if he starts crying at wrestling training I will tell him to stop it and just continue the training. Afterwards I realize that I’m behaving just like my father did, and I don’t want that. Sometimes I can see it before it happens and I’m able to constrain myself, but sometimes I can’t.”

Arte suave – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The multiple-time world champion Fernando ”Terere” Augusto initiated a social project in the favela Cantagalo with the purpose to get young guys away from drugs and criminality through BJJ training. One of the guys who got picked up was Alan. “I didn’t know anything about Jiu-Jitsu before I met Terere, nothing at all. I got interested because I wanted to learn something that I could use in the fights at school. After only two months we started to compete and I there was something I realized in the first competition that made me fall in love with the sport. I fought a white kid and I did everything right, I scored and in the end my hand was raised by the referee. It was the first time in my life that I felt equality, we competed on the same terms and things like skin colour and home address didn’t matter! As long as you trained hard, did your homework and prepared well you could beat your opponent and win. It was one against one, same size and same level, nothing could be more equal and fair than this. That’s what got me to stick with Jiu-Jitsu.”

Terere didn’t get any money through his BJJ project in the favela even though he was one of the best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the world. One day he got an offer to move to São Paulo and teach BJJ with a salary, an offer he couldn’t say no to. He made sure that Alan and the others got a new high quality trainer, Ricardo Vieira, also a multiple-time world champion who had trained BJJ since the age of five. Alan was comfortable with Ricardo and continued to progress in a quick pace. As he won bigger and bigger competitions the name Alan “Finfou” Do Nascimento got famous all over the world. In 2004 Stephan Seidl from Malmö, Sweden came to one of Alan’s training sessions in Brazil and asked to participate. After the training he gave Alan an offer, to come to Sweden and teach BJJ, and Alan said yes right away. In the beginning he travelled back and forth between Sweden and Brazil, but after a few years he started spending more and more time in Sweden. He now lives permanently with his family in Nykvarn outside of Stockholm and teaches BJJ and grappling full-time, both at Prana Jiu-Jitsu and Allstars Training Center.

Alan really lives for Jiu-Jitsu and he gives almost all his awaken hours to the sport. It has given him great success and a possibility to provide for himself and his family. But he also says “No glory without sacrifice” and refers to his family. “Every day when I wake up in the morning I help my girlfriend to prepare our son for school and then I go to Prana for training. First it’s morning training with drills, then strength and conditioning and finally hard training with sparring. In between those sessions I’m at Allstars, training their MMA fighters in grappling, so I come home late in the evening when my family is already sleeping. The house is already cleaned, clothes are washed and the dinner is prepared next to the microwave oven. I can’t even describe how much I appreciate the support my family gives me. The toughest for me is not the hard training sessions or competitions, it’s to not have enough time with my family. We have our mornings together, as well as weekends when I don’t travel or compete. Whenever I’m at the academy and putting my efforts into the training, I think of them and their sacrifices so that I can be there training, so I make sure to make the most out of it.”

”No, no, no, no, I've never been good or talented”

When I ask how early he realized that he was talented in BJJ he shakes his head. “No, no, no, no, I’ve never been good or talented. I’ve never thought of myself in that way and I will never do it either. The day I start seeing myself as good or better than others it’s time for me to quit. Jiu-Jitsu is about development and improvement, every day. The exact moment I step down from the podium after winning a competition I have already shifted to a new focus and I have a list in my head of things I need to improve. If others want to classify me as good or bad they can check my results and decide for themselves. But no, I have never seen myself as the best practitioner in any way. On the other hand, I was the one who always trained more than the others, mainly because I had trouble to learn the techniques quickly. Still today I have no problem to go to a blue or even a white belt who did something interesting and ask if they can show me how they did it. You should always consider yourself a beginner and keep the hunger to learn more. There are those who win a world championship and think that they know it all, but what do you think your opponents will do now? They will train even harder and find new ways to beat you next time. If you come back to the next competition without having developed anything and use the same strategy as last time, you will for sure lose.”

Paralysis and citicism to Kampsportsgalan

In 2014 Alan competed in the world championship in California, USA. He had managed to reach the semi-final when he faced Otavio de Souza. Early in the fight Otavio worked towards an omoplata, but suddenly he swept Alan to get an armbar instead. In the sweep Alan landed on his head and got seriously injured. The audience could see how the doctors carried out a paralyzed Alan on a stretcher. “When I hit the mat I could feel electricity going from my hands, through the whole body, all the way down to my toes. I felt how the time between my brain’s orders to my body’s executions got longer and longer until I couldn’t move at all. It was really scary but I refused to accept it. I refused to accept myself stuck in a wheelchair, that others would have to take care of me, to no longer be able to provide for my family. I had a huge support by my family, my friends and my students. The doctors did numerous tests and eventually they informed me that they had found a swelling in the back of my neck which squeezed the nerves. That’s why all the nerve signals that were sent from my brain to my body had been shut down. I was completely paralyzed for five days and then the swelling started to slowly decrease and more and more of my sensibility came back.” After being released from the hospital Alan went to Brazil with his family for vacation, but instead of resting at the beach he went to a local BJJ tournament which he won easily. It was important for him to prove to himself that he was still able to fight and that the injury was completely gone.

”The academy that came second in the Swedish Nationals was nominated, but not Prana, and we were the best academy and won eight medals!”

It’s obvious that Alan’s students mean a lot to him. Due to that he gets very upset when they’re treated unfairly, which he thinks happened at the Swedish Kampsportsgala earlier this year. “Kenta [Hammarström] and I have together with the others at Prana Jiu-Jitsu achieved great results lately. But to be honest, our success is acknowledged much less in Sweden than in other countries. In the Abu Dhabi World Pro 2016 we won two gold and two silver, an accomplishment no other Swedish academy have ever done. In the Abu Dhabi trials we spread our participants to different locations so that they would not have to face and eliminate each other, and we won first prize for best academy in four of these trials, also something that has never been done in Swedish BJJ history. One of the biggest BJJ web pages,, recently ranked Prana as the no 1 academy in Europe. One day when I came to the gym I heard some of my students talk about that Prana had not been nominated to Kampsportsgalan. I had never heard of it before so I looked it up and they were right. The academy that came second in the Swedish Nationals was nominated, but not Prana, we were the best academy and won eight medals!”

Alan brings me over to a black chalkboard filled with names. He explains that these are the names of all 18 people Prana will send to the WC in California this year. A few of them are already world champions. He asks me to try and find any other Swedish BJJ academy that will send even half as many. It’s obvious that he’s not looking for acknowledgement for himself, but for the young guys and girls who work so hard day after day. “We have guys at Prana who don’t study or work; they train Jiu-Jitsu full time. We have people who have moved here from other countries and they live in the gym now, training four times a day. They have left their parents, friends and home countries to come here and go all in. It makes me really sad when they don’t get what they deserve. But if our accomplishments aren’t enough, then what can we do? I’ve tried to explain to them that they don’t need that acknowledgement, that we do this for ourselves. They understand and say okay, but of course I can feel their frustration. The whole thing reminds me of my young years in Brazil when I didn’t get what I deserved in spite of my results.”

As Alan is now 34 years old, has being competing his whole life and seems to suffer from not being able to give his family more time, I wonder how many more years he wants to compete. “This year is my last for competitions in the black belt elite, I’ve decided to step down from the top level. I’ve competed against the toughest people for ten years now and achieved my goals, I’ve won the biggest tournaments and beaten the best. Eventually you reach a point where you want to give back to the sport and that’s where I’m at now. My plan is to open a Jiu-Jitsu academy one day, maybe in Sweden, Brazil or why not in the US? In Brazil I already have one, the social project in the favela.” When we do this interview it’s only been two weeks since Alan won the world championship in Abu Dhabi, a competition he tried to win for many years and now finally managed to do so. As he’s now stepping down, he’s doing it with flying colours, to say the least!

FighterInterviews wishes Alan a successful ending to his competing career and the best of luck with his future projects!