International Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Federation Tournament
February 1-2, 2003
Exactly how the first IGJJF tournament would go was anyone`s guess. Rorion had held inter-academy tournaments using similar rules for some time now, however this would be the first large scale test of the format open to all competitors. The rewards were made very enticing indeed; in an unprecedented move the entrance fee was actually lowered when a generous sponsor made a sizable contribution and the prize up for grabs would be a dream for any jiu-jitsu enthusiast: an all expenses paid trip to Brazil to train with Grandmaster Helio Gracie himself!
The major differences between the IGJJF rules and the typical BJJ rules had to do with no time limits on the matches. Instead all matches were determined by either tap out or by the first opponent to 12 points. The point system was a departure as well, in that only superior positions were rewarded -sweeps and takedowns counted for naught if you didn`t wind up in a superior position. Naturally the big question was to how these rules and the other changes suggested by Rorion would affect the tournament and be received by the competitors.
As it turns out, both the tournament and the rules were a resounding success and almost universally lauded by both participants and spectators. Many competitors definitely expressed a preference for the new rules over the old ones, with the most common exclamation was that it felt more like training at the academy. Overall the matches were more quickly paced and the average match length was actually shorter than standard tournaments. Coupled with the fact that the tournament was extremely well organized and run, and the two days went by very smoothly.
The two quibbles over the rules I heard the most were the no gabbing both sleeves rule and that slamming was legal. As it turned out, the no grabbing both sleeves rules was a non-factor -there were no stalling attempts at all made. The slamming from the guard rule was in effect to remind competitors that they had to remember to break down their opponent`s posture. Some competitors refused to slam their opponents even when the opportunity presented itself, and those who did take advantage of the rule were not received favorably by the audience as well. (In the interest of fighter safety, I`m not in favor of the slamming rule at all).
The tournament saw about 150 competitors and plenty of great action. In the first day probably best match up in the regular division was in the blue belts as Johnny Orosco took on Jeff Glover. Both kids are about 120 pounds soaking wet, and entered the 150 division giving up quite a bit of size to the opposition. By the time they got to each other, both had submitted their first two opponents, so the showdown was inevitable and looked forward to. In a frantic battle, Glover got the better of Orosco by triangle choke. The first day also saw Ryron Gracie armbar Kurt Osiander in brown belt action, and a host of awesome purple belts taking the mat.
The matches actually went by very quickly, as each division would cycle through a round before moving unto the next. In this way the pacing was better for all athletes and the action was evenly spread out between the two days splitting into the preliminary match-ups on the first day and the semi-finals and finals on the next day. One of the more star studded black belt line ups in recent memory was also scheduled to compete on both days, divided into a lightweight (under 175 pound) tournament featuring the return Antonio "Nino" Schembri, Rodrigo Teixeira, Amal Easton and Cameron Earle, and a heavyweight tournament featuring Jorge "Macaco" Patino, Fabio Leopoldo, Gabriel Vella, Pe De Pano, and Saulo Riberio. It was quite intriguing as to how these legends in the making would adjust to the new rules.
Macaco vs. Fernando Leopoldo
The larger Fernando pulled guard right almost immediately and Macaco got to work on trying to pass and get to side control. As Macaco was maneuvering himself Fernando secured a choke and came to his knees. Macaco was forced to tap in under a minute! What a stunner! Macaco is a legendary good sport, and although obviously disappointed was quick to congratulate Fabio on the victory.
Nino vs. Rodrigo Teixeira
The return of the king baby! OTM favorite Nino chose the IGJJF to make his return to the sport jiu-jitsu scene (in his absence due to injury and fighting in Pride). His very game opponent was Rodrigo Teixeira. The pace of this match did not disappoint as both went back and forth and up and down, battling for position and control. Nino looked very relaxed as with incredible pressure and technique he eventually passed guard and secured the mount. From there he quickly secured an armbar for the victory.
Pe de Pano vs Gabriel Vella
Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz is currently among the top BJJ players in the world right now (and also among the largest, you really have to stand next to him to appreciate how big he is). Gabriel had just returned from Japan where in his Pancrase debut he drew with former king of Pancrase Yuki Kondo. Despite being teammates (both are Gracie Barra students and Ryan Gracie students) the two battled it out. Pe de Pano displayed his vaunted guard as Gabriel tried his best to pass, however the larger Pe would sweep and control. The final score was 14-0, but did not reflect the battle Gabriel put up.
Cameron Earle vs. Amal Easton
This was a match up of two of the top black belts in the United States. Amal Easton from Renzo Gracie had been crowned the black belt absolute champion at the US Trials in November. Cameron Earle from Ralph Gracie is renowned for his exciting and extremely aggressive brand of jiu-jitsu. This was the battle of the guards as each competitor took turns attempting to pass, and each actually succeeded at one point. At around the 20 minute mark Cameron executed a beautiful sweep and when Amal attempted to play an upside-down Cameron fell back into an unusual straight knee bar for the tap out.
Fabio Leopoldo vs. Saulo Riberio
The final match of the first day saw Fabio return to action against Saulo Riberio, the six-time world champion. This match went back and forth and back again, with one athlete dominating and then the other getting an upper hand. Saulo and Fernando battled like this for nearly thirty minutes, when finally Fernando was in Saulo`s guard. Saulo looked for a sweep, and Fernando was forced to base out with his right hand. Saulo then quickly spun for an armbar and secured the tap out victory, an exciting end for a titanic battle and a great day of action.
Amal Easton vs. Rodrigo Teixeira
The first blackbelt match of the second day, the battle for third place in the lightweight division Amal returned to face Rodrigo Teixeira. The competitors exchanged positions however Amal proved to be dominant with some nice sweeps and won this match on points
Cameron Earle vs. Nino
An exhibition match. Cameron (who has actually named his dog after Nino a former instructor at Ralph Gracie`s academy) had every intention of bowing out. However since this was the championship bout they were asked to go out on the mat and "do something". After celebrating their one two showing until the very early morning together, this is what they came up with: Nino displays a freaky guard pass, Cameron attempts to feed him an arm, Nino takes the other arm and we officially have our lightweight champion.
Saulo Riberio vs. Pe de Pano
This battle between two of the biggest names in the sport today lasted a full forty minutes. Saulo was greatly outsized by Pe de Pano but was able to execute some beautiful sweeps. Under the new point system, sweeps didn`t count for points unless you it resulted in a superior position, and each time Saulo would get the sweep, he would land in Pe de Pano`s "damned guard". When Pe de Pano would get the sweep, he was able to capitalize and gain the superior position, thus scoring points. The final score was 14-0 with Pe de Pano mounted on Saulo, but the score wasn`t really indicative of the tremendous battle put forth by both athletes.
After the regular division finals were held. The super fights between division winners were held to determine who the nine (three from each skill level) competitors would be who won the trip to Brazil to train with Helio Gracie! Runner up winners received a gi from Adidas. The fight of the tournament had to be between Dennis Asche and Jeff Glover which continued for nearly forty minutes. Jeff was outweighed by nearly forty minutes in this contest, and Dennis Asche seemed to have control, but Glover simply refused to give up. Finally, to the wild approval of the audience Glover secured a triangle choke, however he failed to break down Asche`s posture properly, and thus got lifted for a big slam. The slam, while perfectly legal, was booed heavily by the crowd and Glover could not continue.
Afterwards there was the award ceremony and announcements made, during which time Grandmaster Helio Gracie himself awarded well-deserved black belts to Ryron and Renner Gracie. All in all the tournament could definitely be deemed a resounding success and we look forward to many more under the new rules in the future. Rorion is definitely interested in feedback and a visit to the tournament`s official website at http://www.IGJJF.com  provides areas to provide feedback. Now that this tournament has been completed and it is less of an experiment and an unknown quantity, the next test of the success of the tournament will be how widespread the new rules become.
LIFE TIME OPPORTUNITY WINNERS
Grand Prize Winners