Meet Our Team
Rank/Division: Black Belt
Kaliffa Oliveira is the head instructor at Gracie Barra Alabama and is the only certified Jiu-Jitsu and Judo Black Belt in Birmingham. Originally from Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil, Kaliffa began training Judo when he was three years old in 1988. By age eight he had one second place in the 1993 South American Championship, and in 1995 became the first national Judo champion for Goiás. By fifteen, Kaliffa had one the Brazilian Judo nationals seven times.
In 2001, Kaliffa moved to the United States to train with four-time Judo Olympian Sensei Leo White in Atlanta, GA. After receiving his Judo black belt from Sensei White, Kaliffa progressed to win the US National Judo Championships in 2003 and 2005.
Kaliffa originally began studying Jiu-Jitsu to improve his ground game in Judo. His training began with Master Frederico Pinentel, 7th degree red-and-black belt in Gracie Barra. As his training continued, Jiu-Jitsu became his passion. He moved to Birmingham, AL in March 2005 and continued his Jiu-Jitsu training with local schools.
In November 2012, Kaliffa established Gracie Barra Alabama in Pelham, AL. He received his Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt on June 1, 2013 from Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. Having just received his first Black Belt stripe, Kaliffa continues to train with Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. and Professor Fabio Costa from Gracie Barra Georgia.
- 2007: First international Jiu-Jitsu competition at the Pan Ams in California
- 2009: 3rd place in New York Jiu-Jitsu Internaltional Open
- 2010: 3rd in no-gi World Championships in Californai (Purple Belt)
- 2011: 1st place New York Open and Las Vegas Open (Brown Belt)
- 2012: double 3rd place Atllanta Internaltional Open (Brown Belt)
- 2013: 3rd Place Pan Ams (Brown Belt); 2nd Place Atlanta International Opens (Black Belt)
- 2014: double 2nd Place in Chicago Open; 1st place no-gi absolute champion (Black Belt)
- 2015: Atlanta winter open IBJJF (double silver); Pan Ams IBJJF (double bronze); US Nationals IBJJF (NO-GI first place, GI 3rd place); NAGA Nationals (GI champion); Atlanta Summer Open IBJJF (GI Gold weight division, bronze absolute, NO-GI Gold weight division)
Rank/Division: Black Belt, Master 1 Super Heavy
Lucian Hornbuckle was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. As a high school athlete, Lucian excelled in many sports including wrestling. In 2000, Lucian won the AHSAA 5A State Championship in wrestling with an overall record of over 200 wins and only 14 losses over four years. After high school, Lucian joined the University of Alabama Rowing Club where he competed on the national level winning many championships in the Men’s Varsity 4+ man boat. After graduating college, Lucian moved back to Birmingham where he met Joe Savoian. Joe had recently moved from Redondo Beach where he had been training Jiu Jitsu under Rigan Machado. Lucian trained with Joe until late 2013 when Joe moved to Baton Rouge, LA to pursue a promising career opportunity. Lucian and a small group of students closed the doors to American Fight Club Alabama and joined Gracie Barra under the banner of Kaliffa Oliveira. Joe and Lucian knew Kaliffa from the local competition scene and were impressed by the things Kaliffa was doing for the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the area. It was an easy decision to become a part of Gracie Barra and all the organization had to offer.
Lucian received his black belt on October 7, 2015 from Kaliffa Oliveira and Joe Savoian with the approval of Professor Fabio Costa from Gracie Barra Georgia. Lucian trains and teaches classes at Gracie Barra Alabama and is a successful and active competitor representing Kaliffa and his organization. Lucian has successfully incorporated his wrestling background into a uniquely aggressive style of Jiu Jitsu. His competition philosophy is to push the pace by constantly attacking, gain the top positon by getting the takedown, maintain the top position, and submit. Lucian’s classes reflect his competition approach, and primarily begin with takedowns followed by techniques which emphasize gaining and maintaining dominant positions while utilizing leverage and motion to avoid the opponents’ strengths and to conserve energy. Lucian believes it is important to always focus on your goals and to train accordingly.
Lucian’s wife Lauren recently began training Jiu Jitsu at Gracie Barra and is promising to be quite the competitor herself. Being able to train as a family is what Gracie Barra is all about.
“Jiu Jitsu for Everyone”
Rank/Division: Brown Belt
Originally from Brazil, born and raised, Marcos Corção started his martial arts journey when he was 11 years old, training Judo. Since then he was a fan of ground game and submissions. He was first introduced to Jiu Jitsu in 2004, thanks to his cousin and first professor Rodrigo “Pimpolho” Fajardo. Training at Gracie Barra Curitiba, Marcos suffered for being the smallest guy in the gym, but trough dedication and motivation from his cousin he overcame his size and learned by experience how Jiu-Jitsu can adapt to each person.
After moving to Birmingham, AL as a purple belt, Marcos quickly became a friend and student of Kaliffa Oliveira while he was opening his school, Gracie Barra Alabama. Professor Kaliffa is well known for his Judo and stand up game, so coach Marcos had a great opportunity to expand his knowledge on the Japanese martial art, receiving a purple belt in Judo. Throughout years training together, Marcos got his Gracie Barra Instructor Certification and on October 2014 was awarded his brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
Rank/Division: Brown Belt
Martin began his Jiu Jitsu journey in 2009 at the young and tender age of 35, he is an avid practitioner and really emphasizes the fitness aspect of jiu jitsu. Martin’s classes are focused heavily on cardio and fitness specific to Jiu Jitsu, and he has been involved in the women’s only self-defence classes that are sporadically offered.
Since becoming a part of the Gracie Barra family, he has been fortunate to attend seminars with Kayron Gracie, Otavio Sousa, Braulio and Vitor Estima to name but a few.
Martin’s philosophy: “It’s OK to lose because your opponent is better, it’s OK to lose because you had an off day, I struggle to find it OK that you lost because you were tired.”
Joseph (Joe) Sitter
Nickname: Zé Colméia (Yogi Bear)
Rank/Division: Purple Belt, Pesado (195-208lbs)
Photo Credit: Mike Calimbas
A journey that began as a way to get out of the house during a rough time in his life, it was exactly what he needed. After moving to the US in 2007, his weight crept higher and higher, while his self-esteem, self-worth, and what he thought of himself sunk lower and lower. When he finally walked into a BJJ gym in February of 2013 to train with (now Professor) Lucian Hornbuckle, Dan Armstrong, Brandon Reed, Joseph was pushing 260lbs. In late fall of that same year, the school closed down and the group moved over to Gracie Barra Alabama, training under the keen eye of BJJ and Judo black belt, Kaliffa Oliveira.
Since that time, Joseph has progressed to the rank of faixa roxa (purple belt), and managed to get himself down to 200lbs. At 33 years of age, he is still an active competitor, and has competed in both regional (NAGA, Montgomery Open, Birmingham Open, Alabama State BJJ), and international (IBJJF International Opens) stages, as well as the 2015 and 2016 IBJJF Masters Worlds tournaments.
In addition to being a part of the competition team at GB Alabama, he is the instructor for the Tues/Thurs 6am All Levels classes. Occasionally, he fills in as the instructor for the evening Fundamentals, Advanced, and No Gi classes, as well as the Saturday competition class.
“Com o Jiu-Jitsu aprendi, sobretudo a grande lição, que foi me conhecer profundamente.”
“The biggest lesson I learnt from jiu jitsu was how to truly know myself”
– Carlos Gracie Sr, on the meaning of jiu jitsu.
- 2017 IBJJF Atlanta Winter Open - 3rd Place, Gi
- 2016 IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - 3rd Place, Gi
- 2016 IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - 3rd Place (Weight, Absolute), No Gi
- 2015 IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - 2nd Place, No Gi
- 2015 IBJJF Atlanta Winter Open - 2nd Place, Gi
- 2014 IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - 3rd Place, Gi
- 2014 IBJJF Chicago Spring Open - 3rd Place, Gi
- 2013 IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - 3rd Place, Gi
Rank/Division: Purple Belt, Adult Heavy
My Jiu Jitsu journey at Gracie Barra Pelham began in late 2012. I had taken a few jiu jitsu classes in college, and wanted to do something to get in shape. I also had the goal of trying my hand at MMA one day if the opportunity ever presented itself. However, when I began training at GB Pelham, my entire perspective changed. My focus for the last few years has been exclusively BJJ and Judo. I discovered very quickly that Jiu Jitsu had the potential to change my life in more ways than one. Since the beginning of my journey, my wife and I have both lost a significant amount of weight, competed in (and placed in) both local and international tournaments, and experienced a huge change in the way that we view ourselves and the world as a whole. The benefits of training jiu jitsu can change anyone, from the casual practitioner who trains a couple of days per week, to the competitor who trains 6 days per week. I believe the key is just keep training. Even when it gets tough, keep training. Jiu Jitsu will change you if you let it.
Jiu Jitsu Rank: Purple Belt
Judo Rank: Green Belt