Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

About Us

Checkmat BJJ was Founded in 2008 by 5th-degree black belt Master Leo Vieira and is an international academy and team of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Costa Mesa’s Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is part of their vast affiliate academies stretching 34 American cities and 16 countries worldwide.

As part of the Checkmat Team, Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu embraces the philosophies that have defined Checkmat for over a decade. Before opening Praia in 2019, Professor Thiago Pierre served as an instructor at Checkmat HQ in Signal Hill-Long Beach, California. With nearly 20 years of BJJ training and a black belt to his name, Thiago is proud of his lineage and the welcoming training environment he has built at Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Here Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our staff is the secret to our student success. Each instructor has a rich background in martial arts and is eager to train the next generation of martial artists. Meet the team below!


Professor Thiago Pierre

“My students are my family… Jiu-Jitsu is my lifestyle.”

— Thiago Pierre

When he was 14 years old, his first contact with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) was when his brother’s friends took him to a Blue Belt teaching BJJ classes. Thiago was there to learn self-defense, but from his first experience, he knew BJJ was more than a class; it was his calling.

Thiago trained, competed, and excelled in BJJ over the years. He also successfully earned a degree in Technology and worked as a Telecommunications Analyst in Brazil. But ultimately, Thiago was inspired by his friends who were still competing: Tarcisio Jardim (who later went on to become a coach) and Antonio Carlos (a former UFC fighter). Thiago knew that he wanted to get back on the mats. He started training again and he has not stopped fighting since.

To follow his dreams, Thiago moved to San Francisco, CA. After working as a coach, he decided that he wanted to dedicate his life to educating others about BJJ. In 2017, Thiago moved to Long Beach, CA. He began training and coaching under Leo Vieira who promoted him to Black Belt at Checkmat Headquarters.

Today, Thiago enjoys teaching children and adults the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He believes if a person learns the basics first, he or she will be a stronger competitor. Thiago also stresses the importance of strategy and patience. When training others, he ensures his students get the individual attention they need. Thiago’s students are his family… Jiu-Jitsu is his lifestyle.

Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rolls Gracie > Romero Cavalcanti > Leonardo Vieira > Thiago Pierre<


Education and Certification:

  • Telecommunications Systems Technology – IFPB – Brazil
  • Certified Athletic Coach – Long Beach City College
  • Certified Personal Trainer – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • Fitness Nutrition Specialist – American Council on Exercise
  • Certified CPR/AED – Long Beach City College
  • Specialist in Strength and Conditioning – ISSA

Competitor accomplishments:

  • American Nationals – NoGi Champion
  • Nogi Worlds – 3 place
  • UAEJJ LA Grand Slam – 2 place
  • IBJJF Open – Multiple times medalist. Gi and Nogi
  • All Stars/ BJJ Tour – Gi Champion
  • JJWL Oakland Super Championship – Champion
  • Gracie Regionals – Champion

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Coach Junior Fernandes

Junior, born and raised in the United Kingdom, started his martial arts journey at the age of 7 with Muay Thai through his father who’s a former world champion. Under his coach & fathers tutelage training Thai boxing in London for 7 years fighting domestically in the UK gained experience & knowledge for the sport.

Soon in 2013 his father changed gyms to become a head Muay Thai instructor at Fightzone London held in the heart of East London, where  Junior met his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu professor to be, Marco Canha, who managed to persuade a young Jr at the time to try out a BJJ session. Marco, a 4th degree BJJ black belt awarded all of Jr’s belts from kids belts to his adult brown belt.

At 13, he found a new passion & challenge that BJJ brought as he instantly became hooked onto, traveling around the world teaching and competing throughout his early teens to fighting at the biggest tournaments as an adult such as IBJJF World Championships (winning 3 times) all of this being done through his educational years too!

In order to progress further in his career & follow his dreams he moved to Long Beach California from London England to train and compete for amongst great athletes and Leo Vieira at Checkmat HQ.

Today, with his: charisma, good energy & passion for the sport gives back his knowledge coaching at Praia Brazilian Jiu Jitsu creating a safe, fun & family-friendly environment community welcoming everyone. As well as coaching he looks to keep building his name in the martial arts world that he set out to do so in the States.



  • 2X IBJJF World Champion
  • 1X IBJJF NoGi World Champion
  • 1X IBJJF Pan American Champion
  • IBJJF European Medalist
  • 3X UAEJJF Grand Slam Champion
  • F2W Winner

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Coach Malena Sessa

History of

Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was founded by Thiago Pierre in 2019 to introduce an authentic BJJ lifestyle to the Costa Mesa Community.

Praia means beach in Portuguese. Our name captures the essence of our beautiful Orange County, CA location.

Praia BJJ’s mission is to provide a fun, welcoming, beach-style location while ensuring that students understand and practice the main principles of Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Loyalty
  • Discipline
  • Respect
  • Self-Confidence

Promoted by the legend himself, Leo Vieira, Thiago is a proud Checkmat Black Belt.

As a Checkmat BJJ affiliate, Praia students can be confident they will get the best instruction from a world-renowned academy.

Class Etiquette

At Praia, We Believe...

· Treat everyone with respect, and the same will be done to you

· Please arrive 10 minutes before class FULLY DRESSED and ready to train

· Be on time to class. If you happen to arrive late, wait at the entrance to the mat till the instructor says it’s okay for you to join

· Only black or white Gi’s are permitted in Praia (please no other colors) (Patches available for purchase at Praia). For Belt promotions and seminars, only white Gi are allowed.

· Training Jiu-Jitsu involves close personal contact: Please be sure your GI, Shorts, Rash Guard, & Training Gear are clean, free of foul odors, & in good condition for every class

· Students must wear a black rash guard under your Gi. Training without a rash guard is not permissible

· Students must wash their Gi and rash guard after every training session

· Be aware of your personal hygiene: Make sure that you are clean and showered, your fingernails & toenails are properly trimmed, and your hair (if long) is pulled back & secured

· Remove any watches, rings, earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry before training

· Please do not walk barefoot around the gym. Bring sandals to walk in when not on the mat

· Make sure you take your shoes off and leave them in the back fitness area before entering the mat

· Everyone here is family, be careful and use control with your training partner; don’t break your friends 😉

· If you (the student) or your child is sick, please stay home and rest. Training can wait until you’re healthy

· No coaching from the sidelines/waiting area

· No cell phones on the mat during class

· No food or gum on the mat

· Have Fun!

Are you interested in what Praia BJJ has to offer you?

Special Offers

Join the Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team today!

When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu, nothing compares to Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not convinced? Come check us out and see for yourself!

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