Grapplers Quest is not an event that just popped up. Grappler's Quest is actually one of the more established events with a big draw.
Grapplers Quest World Championships 2003 After three weeks of rain in Rio de Janeiro I had had it and decided to head for the States and dry out. I'd had been gone too long and while the Brazilian tournament scene is filled with drama and turmoil the American scene is exploding with new growth and matured talent. There are a lot of new events in the States and a lot of new talent too, both homegrown and imported. A lot of the top stars that were residents of Brazil are now living in the States and actively fighting. I was curious to come back and check out all the new events that were popping up. Grapplers Quest is not an event that just popped up. Grappler's Quest is actually one of the more established events with a big draw. Brian Cimins has not just jumped on the scene trying to make a quick buck. He has been working hard to create an event that lets the world's top grapplers showcase their talents and win good money at the same time. Grapplers Quest was transformed from being a local east coast event to a national event with the Grappler's Quest West in Las Vegas, NV on October 7th, 2000. Since then Grappler's Quest has hosted many of the best fighters in both the United States and from around the world. Many Abu Dhabi and UFC fighters came out of and or participated in the Grapplers Quest Tournament circuit. I was excited to see the growth of this event and I wanted to see if it lived up to all the hype. So I planned my trip back to the States around being at the 2003 Grapplers Quest World Championships. I checked out www.Grapplers.com for the details and saw a real great absolute division line up and with a thousand dollars on the line I knew there would be some game fights. The absolute division was stacked, but I was most excited about seeing Kenny Florian a Black Belt from Boston Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I had seen him on the mat and Brazil and he was looking good. Kenny has already proved himself a Grapplers Quest Super Fight Champion before, and also was the U.S. Grappling Super Fight Champion 2002 and an up and coming MMA fighter. David Avellan from Florida Freestyle was returning as the 2003 GQ U.S. Trials Champion his brother and him basically have put Florida grappling on the map. Joe D'Arce a black belt from Renzo Gracie is an old friend and ever since wining the Pan Americans of BJJ he has earned a reputation of being a very technical fighter. Rick Macauley from Balance Studios / Relson Gracie Purple Belt was added to the card after impressive performances in Brazil at the Copo do Mundo. I had never seen Rob Kahn a brown belt from Team Groundhog / Royce Gracie fight before or Nakapan Phungephorn a Pedro Sauer Black Belt from the Linxx Academy either. Jay Herien a Renzo Gracie blue belt and Hofstra wrestler was a new name for me as well, but coming out of Renzo's school I knew he had to be tough. Finally Ken Kronenberg a brown belt from Tai Kai Machado Jiu Jitsu was returning to fight. He was a 1999 Grapplers Quest Super Fight Champion and also an ADCC Veteran. The event did not get started with out a hitch. Unfortunately PG&E tripped up the event. Early on Saturday morning the weather was terrible and a storm caused a power outage and an hour-long delay in the event. But, Brian Cimins kept his cool and pulled it together. Not an easy job with 487 fighters and hundreds of fans wondering what was going on. Brian was not about to let anyone down and when the lights came on and the action started right up. Grappler's Quest runs 59 divisions for men, women, children, teens and executives. The advanced divisions and absolute are the highlight of the event and the World Championships' Advanced Division was full of tough fighters. The Advanced Flyweight division is not a big division but has some real talented and technical fighters. Mike Mrkulic a brown belt from Team Royler Gracie/David Adiv USA met Eric Ruiz from Progressive Fighting in the finals and submitted Ruiz in about one minute with his patented figure-four footlock. The Brazilian World Champion Black Belt Wagnney Fabiano now owns the Advanced Featherweight division at Grappler's Quest, two tournaments in a row. Fabiano represents Team Nova Uniao and teaches full-time in Canada. He won his first two matches up 9 points first match and then 18 points then next before he submitted both opponents. In the finals, Binky Jones from Baltimore, MA managed to score two points on Wagnney but soon was submitted too. The Advanced Lightweight division was the most exciting of the whole event. Mike Fowler from Lloyd Irvin's school went on a submission spree eating his first three opponents in less than six minutes total fight time. On the other side of the bracket Keith Florian a brown belt from Boston BJJ fought his way to the finials. On paper it looked to be a tough fight between two of the US's top no gi competitors facing off. At the start of the match Fowler quickly pulled to haft guard and played his game really well. He lead Florian right in to a trap. Florian landed right in a triangle and Fowler won by submission in less than two minutes again. Fowler's submission was a shocking end to the much-anticipated match up. Fowler had won four matches in less than eight minutes and showed some cool new set ups in doing so. The Advanced Welterweight division Renzo Gracie's Julius Park beat Andrew Smith from Richmond BJJ for the gold medal. Francisco "Chico" Salgado from the Brazilian American Jiu Jitsu Institute fought through a tough division to beat Colin O'Rourke from Renzo Gracie in the finals of the Advanced Middleweight division. Advanced Cruiserweight division was won by Phil Mazzurco from Renzo Gracie who beat out Rich Latta from Hatfield Martial Arts in all out takedown war for the gold medal! Advanced Light-Heavyweight division was won by Bobby Palumbi. He beat TJ O'Donnell in the finials. Palumbi had a war of a match with 2-Time IFC Champion, Eddy Rolon, who went on to place 3rd in this very stacked division. Advanced Heavyweight division had some really tough guys. Tom Muller from Renzo Gracie pulled out the win over a game Sherman Pendergarst also a Renzo Gracie student. Grappler's Quest is known for its cash paying 8-Man Superfight Absolute Division. This was the World Championship and the division was full of game fighters. Grapplers Quest runs this division spread out through out the day and that allows the fighters to get a good amount of recovery time and also the other competitors to watch the top guys in action. This wrestling tournament-style approach keeps the final from being a bore with two tired fighters. Instead the guys are rested and the action is entertaining. The first match was between Joe D'Arce and Rick MaCauley. Rick came out quick and tried to jump guard and right in to an armlock on D'Arce. D'Arce fought it off quickly and ended up in haft-guard. Rick opened up and swept D'Arce. After some sweep attempts, Rick tried for a figure-four footlock and missed it. The fighters were then back on their feet. D'Arce then shot in for the double leg and Rick went for a guillotine and jumped to guard. It wasn't really sunk in and D'Arce's head popped out. Rick tried to take D'Arce down from out of his haft-guard with a single leg unsuccessfully and now both fighters were back on their feet again. Rick shot a double again and wound up D'Arce's guard earning him two points. Rick could have held on for the last 2 minutes, but the game grappler pushed the action. Then a little space between the two let D'Arce stand up and grab Rick's neck. Rick countered with a take down but just ended up in D'Arce's guard and it was too late the choke was sunk. Rick tapped out and D'Arce won by guillotine. The next match up was Ken Florian against Ken Kronenberg, the smallest guy in the event versus the largest. I think Brian Cimins does this on purpose. We see a lot of David versus Goliath matches at Grapplers Quest I remember back to the 2000 8-Man Superfight Absolute Division when Tony Desouza tapped Homer "The Rock" Moore who had a 80 lbs. difference between the two. They always seem to be exciting and this one was no exception. Florian showed his training with Darrel Gholar was paying off. He was in complete control on his feet despite the weight advantage Kronenberg had over him. Florian took Kronenberg down easily and avoided a few attacks from Kronenberg's guard. The fighters separated when Kronenberg opened his guard and stood up. Kronenberg seemed determined to get revenge and take Florian down. But, his failed shot attempt left his neck wide open and Florian jumped on it and submitted Kronenberg with a tight guillotine choke. Next up in the first round of the 8-Man Superfight was David Avellan against Jay Herien, All-American College Wrestler from Hofstra from Phil Baroni's. Herien comes from a strong wrestling back ground do it was interesting to see how Avellan, the 2003 Grapplers Quest U.S.A. Trials champ, played his game in this match. Instead of running from the wrestler or jumping guard Avellan shot right in for the single off the hand slap. Herien defended well with the front headlock but then gave it up while attempting to take the back. Herien proved to be quick and acrobatic but still could not get passed Avellan's guard. At one point Herien backed out of the guard and Avellan sat up for a quick single-leg. They wrestled around all over the mats until Herien got a front headlock and out of bounds. The match was restarted on the feet back in the middle of the mats. Avellan fearlessly continued shooting on the wrestler's legs but with no avail. Soon he decided to pull guard on Herien and work his submissions from the guard but accomplished nothing. Herien gave some space again and Avellan snatched up another single-leg from the guard. This time he finished it with a huge slam. But, Herien spent no time on his back and was up on his feet quickly. After a bit of wrestling Herien took his shot and got it, landing in Avellan's guard. Avellan knowing he was going down had already sunk a kimura shoulder lock. While fighting out of that Herien let Avellan set up an arm lock on the other arm and switch attacks for the submission. Avellan wins by submission arm lock from the guard. This was one of the most exciting matches of the 8-Man with a sneaky move on Avellan's part. The last match in round one was between Rob Kahn and Nakapan Phungephorn. Nakapan came out aggressive and shot deep for a single leg, but Kahn's sprawl was good and he went straight for the neck. Nakapan retreated to his guard and swept Kahn and escaped the headlock all at the same time. A half-guard game ensued with Nakapan on top. The game opened up and Nakapan tried to cartwheel pass numerous times till Kahn closed his guard on him to slow things down. Kahn had to open his guard again eventually to keep the fight moving and when he did Nakapan went right back to his high flipping guard passes one of them he passed but before he could stabilize Kahn had had enough and stood up quickly. Nakapan stayed aggressive on his feet and it paid off he took Kahn down with a good single-leg. It was now 4 x 0 for Nakapan, Kahn was tired and working his guard. Nakapan held his position not taking any risks with his lead. The match ended with Nakapan in Kahn's closed guard 4 to 0. A great fight for both competitors but this battle left both fighters injured and unable to return to the next round. Round two started out with Justin Garcia from Team GroundHog filling in for the injured Nakapan. Normally, Grapplers Quest rules state that Kahn would replace Nakapan since he had just fought the round before. However, Kahn was injured as well. So Justin Garcia a Grappler's Quest Superfight veteran was called in to face David Avellan in round two. Garcia came out with fire, rapid-fire shots at Avellan's legs and working the neck too. Avellan came back at him equaling his force and got an under hook that he used as leverage to force Garcia to the guard for two points. Garcia didn't stay down long and came right back up to his feet, but Avellan still had the under hook and used it to uchi-mata Garcia for another takedown. Garcia looked calm and confident in his guard. Neither player was able to advance and finally, the fight returned to its feet where both men traded shots and headlock attempts. With 90 seconds left on the clock Garcia almost sunk a guillotine but Avellan was able to escape. The match finished with both fighters on their feet trying for take downs 4 to 0 for Avellan. The next fight in round two was Kenny Florian against Joe D'Arce. These are two talented fighters who always come to fight. This match proved to be the most technical of the division. D'Arce most likely after seeing Florian's takedowns in round on started the match of by sitting to guard. The fighters didn't spend much time there and D'Arce was back up on his feet. Florian seemed a little timid to shoot in on D'Arce and they tied up a lot but noting came of it. Then D'Arce pulled guard again. This time Florian wasted no time and set up a straight foot-lock, but he was not able to keep a hold of the foot D'Arce slipped out and got on top. Florian played an open guard and D'Arce pushed to try and pass but the fighters went out of bounds. Back in the middle of the mats, the fighters started in the closed guard D'Arce gave Florian a little space to come up to his feet but then closed the door and took Florian down with a single for 2 points. The fighters landed in haft-guard and with D'Arce on top putting the pressure on tight. Some good hip movement led to D'Arce passing the guard for another three points. There was only 10 seconds left in the match when Florian escaped stood up and shot a great double-leg. Unfortunately for him it was too late. In mid-takedown time ran out and it was a 5 to 0 win for D'Arce. Grappler's Quest is run with a very efficient plan. Brian Cimins has figured out how to keep the event moving and still allow the super fighters time to rest. After a good break, D'Arce was well ready to fight Avellan in the finals for the thousand dollars and the prestigious title of "Grapplers Quest Worlds Superfight Absolute Champion". A thousand dollars on the line is enough for things to get emotional. Everyone was excited and the energy in the room could have cut the PG&E bill to nothing. It seemed D'Arce didn't want to tangle with Avellan's wrestling background and went to the guard quick, but Avellan saw it coming and backed out. As the fighters came together again in the middle of the mats Avellan darted in for a double leg before D'Arce could pull guard. D'Arce wasn't going down easy. He grabbed hold of Avellan's neck with a guillotine that looked real tight but Avellan was still awarded the points. On top and in the haft-guard Avellan was trying to set something up and gave D'Arce a little bump to the head. This upset D'Arce and tempers almost flared, but both grapplers quickly calmed. The match continued with a half-guard battle. Avellan's jumping and sliding guard passes attempts came close but D'Arce was ready for them and defended them all. At the 2:30 mark Avellan made some space for D'Arce to sit up from guard and try a single-leg but he was unable to finish the take down and Avellan escaped. D'Arce worked his haft guard attacking with guillotines and sweeps but Avellan kept the pressure on top till time ran out. The fight was won 2 points to 0 for David Avellan. I was very impressed with both the referees for the 8-Man Superfight both Danny Ives and David Jacobs did a great job even when the finals got heated. The event finished on time despite the black out and the injuries in the 8-Man Superfight at about 5:30 or 6 pm I asked Brian "Where is everyone going"? "It's over" he said, "all finished." Well, that is when I knew I had been gone too long and to used too Brazil. Home in time for dinner! Grappler's Quest lived up to all the hype and more. I am really looking forward to the November 15th, return to Las Vegas for Grapplers Quest West 2003 and Grapplers Quest "Beast of The East" back in New Jersey on February 21st, 2004. Look out for the Grapplers Quest to take lead in 2004 on a new World Grappling Ratings System called, RATED. Stay tuned to: www.Grapplers.com for more details and event announcements