European Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
As many of you know from either reading OTM or knowing my personally, I am the king of last second travel. Not so much because I’m ready to pack up and be anywhere at a moment’s notice, but more for my extreme procrastination and inability to plan anything concrete out. I had been talking with one “Papa” John Gorman about attending flying to Portugal for sometime, but it took some last minute coaxing a few days before to actually prompt me to buy my ticket to Lisbon.
I am very, very glad I made the trip. I knew the Jiu Jitsu had enormous potential in Europe, and I had seen the groundwork laid out when I attended the Seni show in 2004, but I was honestly shocked at how far and how fast the sport has come since then. Well over 800 competitors participated in the 2007 European Championships representing 18 countries. More over, this was the most international feeling event I had been to as many countries was well represented,
Overall, it was fair to say that at the very top levels the Brazilians (save for a lone American) held dominance, but the Europeans are definitely gaining ground, and at the lower rankings, there is a virtual dead heat between competitors of all nations. This is probably because of the strong judo background of many of the Europeans (which means they are very comfortable with the idea of fighting in the gi) and the fact that so many of the top judo players are actually embracing Jiu Jitsu in Europe. The reason given was that either the Judo guys were seeking more competition or saw Jiu Jitsu as a better bridge for getting into MMA). In addition to European teams from England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Poland and more, other countries such as Japan and even Angola and South Africa were also represented.
The tournament began Saturday with the white, blue and purple belt divisions, as well as the brown and black belt absolute tournaments.
The black belt Absolute division came down to four familiar names who each had to fight (and submit) two opponents along the way. In the first semi-final, American Rafael Lovato Jr. faced off against Braulio Estima. Lovato set to work his open guard for the match, however Braulio created immense pressure in his pass, forcing Lovato to turtle. Braulio secured a triangle choke from the back and Lovato was forced to tap out.
On the other side, Lucio “Largarto” Rodrigues squared off against Mundial Absolute champion Alexander “Xande” Ribeiro. This proved to be a closely contested match, but it was a sweep by Xande which earned him the 2-0 victory.
This set up the finals between Xande and Braulio. Both had certain expectations leading into this math, as Xande is the defending World Champion, but Braulio was more or less on his home turf (running a successful academy in England) and had much moral support. Braulio scored first with a sweep to score two points, but in defending Xande managed to hurt both his knee and his shoulder. Xande was given a few minutes to recover and eventually returned to the match, however he can do naught but hold off the offense of Braulio at this point until time ran out. Still, it was a big victory for Braulio, who should be recognized as one of the top players in the sport right now, and a gutsy performance by Xande, who is now resting in anticipation of the ADCC championships.
The brown belt absolute was contested between Bruno Alves of Sergio Vita/Fight Club and European Marko Helen of Tampereen Ju-Jutsukou, both having battled their way to the finals in a series of grinding matches. The pace of this match was no less grueling and went to overtime, where Bruno came out the champion.
I also had plenty of time to observe the lower division action, which was largely filled up with the European competitors. The levels of lower belts are definitely evening up around the world, and with the aforementioned affinity with the gi the Europeans have established, there was quite a range of sophisticated techniques and talent. Seeking to highlight the local fighters, I asked a few of our Portuguese hosts to point out the standout talent, and to my surprise they pointed to one Monica Fonseca in the female purple belt division. Well, my surprise quickly subsided, as even though she was forced to move up a weight class, she managed to submit her opponent quite easily.
The second day of the event had the black belt divisional action during most of the day. With Xande out of action, Braulio and Largarto easily split the heavy (Pesado) division. One weight class above at Super Pesado, American Rafael Lovato Jr. made it look easy submitting both his opponents to get his first international gold medal at black belt, and impressively did so at the very minimum of his his weight class (weighing less than one kilo over the maximum for Pesado). Another former champion, Mario Reis, who won the absolute title in the previous European championship decided to try his hand at the heaviest weight class Pesadissamo. Brave, but perhaps not very wise as Reis the former Pena world champion, was very much stifled from the bottom and could not get anything going against his opponent and Bruno dos Santos took gold in the division.
Anderson Pereira of BTT is the Pluma champion. The Pena champion of the day was Reinaldo Ribeiro, who defeated the ageless Wellington “Megaton” Dias in a great match following some tremendous action in the division. The Leve crown was shared by
Philipe Della Monica and Carlos Eduardo of Gracie Barra Caveirinha. The Medio finals were among the most exciting of the day, when
Alan “Finfou” Nascimento managed to defeat Yan Cabral in a war. Both of these names will be ones to watch in a division that is already much talked about. Finally in the Meio Pesado Division
Raphael Abi-Rihan and Antonio Sergio Cardoso from Carlson Gracie team shared honors.
Perhaps the biggest standout of the day was in the Black Belt Seniors I division, as the legendary Fabio Gurgel got on the mats to take both his division and the absolute division. Nostalgia or not, Fabio made quick work of all five of his opponents on the day and one couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he stepped into the main divisions, but it was a good day for Fabio as he got to compete with his longtime coach and mentor Romero “Jacare” Calvacanti in his corner.
The day rounded out with the National brown/black team challenge, of which four nationalities participated. A powerhouse team Brazil first took out a very talented and determined, but ultimately outmatched team from Scandanavia. The Scandinavian talent was clearly evident however, and they represented all of their European practitioners well. On the other side of the bracket Team Poland, made up of brown belts, got past the French black belt team.
There were a lot of whisperings over the weekend at just how good the competitors from Poland were. Former Eastern Bloc Judo powerhouses, a lot of them had now turned their attention to Jiu Jitsu and brought a crushing game along with them. In the end the Brazilian team won the gold, but none of the Polish competitors made it easy for them.
For the first international event of the CBJJ’s calendar the tone has been set for the other big events. Furthermore it was quite an eye opening experience attending the European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships in how much the sport has grown world wide. In many ways the European Championships may be the most International Competition around, and it’s grown to this staggering size in only four short years. We’ll definitely see you at the next one, on the mat.
Full Results here!