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 won second place in the 1993 South American Championship, and in 1995 became the first national Judo champion for Goiás. By fifteen, Kaliffa had won 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.
Kaliffa has won over 10 IBJJF Open competitions, including Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas. A few other highlights:
- 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)
- 2016: Judo World Bronze Medalist (Black Belt)
- 2016: Judo National Champion (Black Belt)
- 2016: IBJJF World Master Bronze Medalist (Black Belt)
Kaliffa has also formed BAMA GRAPPLING as a new organization serving Alabama and the Southeast United States, with the primary goal of spreading BJJ throughout the state. Bama Grappling is now the largest grappling event in Alabama, with participants and competitors from all over the USA.
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 recently awarded his wife Lauren, the rank of Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She 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
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.”
Lance Nichols Jr.
Rank/Division: Black Belt, Super Heavy
Lance began his martial arts training at the age of six when he and his father signed up for Taekwondo lessons together. His father went on to teach Taekwondo for over 25 years. Lance trained and competed in Taekwondo into his teens, winning US Nationals at the age of 12. He and both his sisters earned black belts. After high school he began training in Shotokan Karate and competed in point fighting, kata, weapons and full contact karate tournaments. He reached brown belt in Shotokan before discovering Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Lance began his jiu-jitsu training in the spring of 2004 with James Srygley in Vincent, AL. After a few years, he began teaching classes in a small building behind his house and at a local church for 6 years. A lot of this time he spent training for mixed martial arts competition. Lance has competed, coached, refereed, and judged in numerous amateur MMA events. Lance joined Kaliffa Oliveira and Gracie Barra in August of 2016. He then went on to represent Professor Kaliffa and Gracie Barra in multiple BJJ tournaments in 2017 ending the year with Gold at the SJJIF No-Gi World Championships in Long Beach, CA. He was awarded his Black Belt by Professor Kaliffa on January 6, 2018 with the approval of Professor Fabio Costa from Gracie Barra Georgia.
Lance lives in Oxford, AL with this wife Andrea and their 3 children, Lance III, Tia, and Isaac. He enjoys supplementing his jiu-jitsu training with swimming and yoga.
Lance has a well-rounded depth of knowledge of the martial arts and a deep passion for Jiu-Jitsu. He enjoys sharing what he has learned with others and believes that the primary responsibility of a Jiu-Jitsu professor is to pass on his passion for the art.
- 2017 Competition - Brown Belt
- IBJJF Atlanta Winter Open - Gold
- IBJJF Pan Ams - Bronze
- Birmingham Open - Gold
- IBJJF Atlanta Spring Open - Silver, Bronze Open Division
- Naga US Nationals - Silver
- IBJJF Master Worlds - Bronze
- IBJJF Atlanta Summer Open - Bronze Gi, Bronze No-Gi
- IBJJF No-Gi Pan Ams - Bronze, Bronze Open Division
- SJJIF World Championships - Bronze Gi, Gold No-Gi, Bronze No-Gi Open Division
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
- 2018 IBJJF Atlanta Winter Open Adult Purple Belt Super Heavy-2nd place
- 2018 Fuji Alabama State Championship Purple Belt Heavy-1st place
- 2016 IBJJF Atlanta International Summer Open (Blue Belt, Adult, Superheavy)- 1st Place
- 2016 Grappling Alabama Birmingham Open: Blue Belt, Adult, Heavy- Gi 3rd Place
- 2014 Newbreed Challenge: White Belt, Adult, Medium Heavy- No GI: 2nd Place Gi-1st Place
- 2014 IBJJF Atlanta International Open (White belt, Adult, Heavy)- 3rd Place
- 2013 IBJJF Atlanta International Open (White belt, Adult, Heavy)- 3rd Place