BY JON DELBRUGGE – I was sitting in the Crazy 88 Jiu Jitsu school office typing emails to people and making phone calls when my phone rang. Master Lloyd Irvin informed me that I was needed to go to Brazil to cover Mike Fowler and JT Torres in Sao Paulo at the World League Pro Jiu Jitsu tournament, and the icing on the cake was that I too would be able to compete. Unlike Mike and JT, this would be my first time ever going to Brazil period, let alone going there to compete. So, I knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and I had to take advantage of it. Unfortunately I ran into some problems along the way.
I did not have a Brazilian visa and the earliest I could get one was in 16 days (this is what the website said). Still I knew I had to make a very strong attempt to obtain this Brazilian visa. After back to back trips to Washington DC and Camp Springs, Maryland, I was able to get my visa in less than 24 hours (thank god for the nice people at the Brazilian consulate).
I got the call to go on Wednesday and I was on the plane by Thursday evening. Everything happened so fast I really didn’t have time to get nervous or anything, I was given brief instructions on what to do when I landed. I had to find a red and blue bus, take it to the Renaissance hotel, find a phone and call Guigo. It took me about 2 hours to finally get the hotel. I could not find a pay phone in Brazil only calling card phones. I walked around the city of Sao Paulo to find a store where they sold calling cards. 1 hour later, I found a small stand that sold the cards. I called Guigo and he told me to take a taxi to his school. Finally I made it to Guigos academy.
My first day/ night in Brazil was pretty relaxing. Met up with Mike Fowler and JT Torres, ate some food and watched a few movies at Guigos house. It was very exciting to be able to hang out with such high level athletes and hear them talk about their matches and how they want to execute their game plans. I listened very closely and tried to pick up all the pointers I could.
I was the first member of the team to fight on Saturday morning in the open weight class division. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I had heard so many stories of how different Brazilian fighters are and how much higher the level of competition is. Well, its true. Everyone seemed like they were really good and moved like a belt ahead of the one they wore. With the amount of money being offered for winning these divisions there were A LOT of fighters there.
My first match was against a fighter from Check Mat BJJ. I was able to keep my opponent off the score board and take the match 3-0 after securing a guard pass. The second match was 4-0 courtesy of two half guard sweeps we have been working on in the white belt basics class. In the third match I fought a very big fighter from Alliance (maybe about 230). I pulled guard right away and was able to get my sweep scoring 2, as I went for my guard pass my opponent turtled and defended well, the match ended 2-0. I felt very good at this point.
My next match was against a fighter from the Cavaca school. He made my previous opponent look small! I could tell this guy was a good Judo player because of his grips, he tried for a very nice throw but I defended and went for a take down of my own. I was able to hit decent fire mans carry that would give me a 2 point lead. As I began to pass my opponent benched pressed me off of him causing a scramble. I ended up on the bottom of turtle. Next thing I knew he lifted me up off of the ground and was able to secure a very strong choke from behind. My absolute division run was over, but I felt warmed up for my weight class. It was a short night after a long day of fights everyone just wanted to go to bed. Our weight divisions would start early Sunday morning.
Everyone woke fairly early the next day. We made our daily early morning trip to the diner up the street from Guigo’s house. After a few cups of cafe espressos and a ham sandwich, I felt great. JT Torres and Mike Fowler were up first that day. Both Mike and JT lost first round on very controversial reffing.
My weight division started out with my opponent not making weight and being DQ’d. In my second match I beat a fight from the Ryan Gracie Academy with two sweeps ending the match 4-0. In the semi final match, I was pretty much on top the whole match working a double under and under over pass, I even made him turn to his knees twice! The match somehow went to a ref decision giving my opponent the berth in the finals.
Bad reffing aside, I was able to manage the Bronze medal at a tough tournament in Brazil. Although I do consider this an accomplishment to a certain degree I still feel like I can do a lot better. The experience alone has made me a better fighter, and more prepaired to be a world champion in 2010. If it wasn’t for Crazy 88, there is no way that I would be where I am today……in life AND Jiu-Jitsu. So all in all my experience in Brazil was life changing to say the least…but also, the first of many!