BY DAVID ZWANETZ – June 5 & 6, 2010 – CLASH OF THE TITANS Saturday at the Mundials was the real beginning of the “Clash of the [BJJ] titans.” The junior blue-belts divisions, the purple-belt male and female open divisions, as well as the brown belts and the lighter-weight black belts (my favorite divisions of course) were on the docket. The bullpen, the stands, and the surrounding areas were flooded with BJJ royalty. I arrived at the venue extra early to support Mike Atkin, who is, as most people know, like family to all of us.
As we had done for three days before, Cathy and I placed our bags in a prime location – center seating on the right side of the arena. Initially, it was just Cathy and I, amongst hoards of referees, vendors, and press getting ready for the biggest two days in BJJ. However, this time one thing was noticeably different. Unlike the random seating arrangement of the fans in the first three days, the seating choices of the patrons on this morning were clearly deliberate. In fact, directly behind me I noticed a pack of supporters and athletes from Alliance – Gabi Garcia in the lead handing out black and teal Alliance t-shirts. Directly across the arena I noticed a similar gathering of Gracie Barra supporters huddled around the unmistakable Romulo Barral. Atos members were to the right of them – most of them, including Rafael & Guilherme Mendes and Gilbert Burns, in clean white Atos polo shirts. To my right was a pack of Gracie Humaita competitors, spectators, and family members led by Saulo Ribero. I had heard that Saturday and Sunday were huge, but this was more than I had expected. Cathy and I grabbed our bags and moved our seats to the soon-to-be Team Lloyd Irvin section (just in time to allow the Alliance Banner to be spread directly over our old seats).
The sights and sounds of the days 4 & 5 will be forever branded into the synapse of my brain. There is simply no way for me to explain how exciting it is to be in seated in a pre-determined section in a packed arena surrounded by the TLI family, many whom have already become world champions, Master Lloyd, and coach/mentor/friend Julius, surrounded on all sides by the power-quad of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teams.
Mike Fowler and JT’s Fights were amazing. Tracey “the submission machine” Goodell looked as though her game plan could be called “shock and awe.” Andris killed it. Brad was on fire. Jon, Mike Atkin, Willie, and Roberto, and “Bro” Huffman fought their hearts out. Everywhere I looked I saw new takedowns, sweeps, guard-passes – it was complete sensory overload.
One of the most notable things about the packed stadium was the know-how of the crowd. The crowd was silent when the matches were still and roaring at the slightest of advantage or scored points. It was similar to what I have seen of the crowds in Japan watching the famed “Pride” matches. There is something special – something energizing – about the noises in being in unison with the flow of the matches; something that I will never forget.
We ended Saturday with a team dinner at a Long Beach Greek restaurant where we ate, drank, and celebrated three days of unbelievable achievements.
Sunday was the biggest day in BJJ for the year of 2010. The black belt finals and open division. On the previous days, as I have mentioned, the arena floor held 12 rings. On Sunday the mats were re-arranged to hold six large rings. A fourth tear of stadium seats had to be lowered from the pyramid ceiling to allow for the extra seating required for the big event. (no – the seats did not drop down in our presence like some sort of freak show). Even more strategically than on Saturday the teams’ plots were staked. Alliance had their banner facing Atos and Humaita staged themselves in the new-seating area (Saulo set up an enormous iconic Gracie banner as well). TLI had a large group directly to the right of Alliance facing Atos and to the left of Humaita. The stage was set:
Here is the breakdown of what I was privileged enough to see live – A breakdown of what you could see in 2011
Rooster Weight Finals: Caio Terra vs Bruno Malfacine (my favorite match of the tournament for obvious reasons) Caio started pulling guard, then went for a footlock then tried the sweep Caio was very offensive off his back, going for Omoplatas and triangles, while Malfacine kept on pushing for the pass. Malfacine won by advantage and was the champ for the second year in a row. He ran to his team and jumped the rail – his 126.5 pounds easily hoisted into the roaring crowd. An amazing sight to see.
Light Featherweight Finals: Pablo Silva vs Samuel Braga: As they are from the same team, they did not fight. Pablo was awarded the honorary gold. However, they ceremoniously met in the center of the ring with their team banner and gave respect to their coaches.
Featherweight Finals: Cobrinha vs Rafael Mendes (4×4 points; 2×4 advantages) Lot’s of 50×50 guard action with 2 sweeps each and a lot of footlock attempts. In the battle of the toe holds, Rafael got the better and won in the advantages (4×2). I really enjoyed this match in that I feel it was a good game plan on display.
Lightweight Finals: Michael Langhi vs Celso Venicius (referee’s decision) In a very uneventful and even match, Langhi got the judges decision. Langhi was quite fun to watch as he has entertaining celebratory antics. I think he bit the pin off an imaginary grenade and threw it into the crowd at the conclusion of this match.
Medium Heavyweight Finals: Tarsis Humphreys vs Romulo Barral (Submission) Tarsis pulled guard and attacked Barral’s leg causing Romulo to injure his ligaments and give up the fight. Tarsis is built like some sort of machine from the terminator movies. Inspired I was!
Heavyweight Finals: Alexandre Ribeiro vs Bernardo Faria (0×2). Admittedly not knowing as much as many of my teammates about professional BJJ, I have really liked Faria since I watched his matches during the Pan Am live stream. Faria pulled halfguard and played an offensive game off the bat. He tried hard to sweep but could not get “Xande” over. Faria pulled half guard again on the opposite side, trying to find holes. He finally got the hard fought sweep and takes the title.
Super Heavyweight Finals: Roger Gracie vs Ricardo Abreu (13 x 2) Roger dominated the fight, got the back and tried his trademark choke that didn’t work so he executed another trademark move, his cross choke from the mount. Abreu survived and showed how resilient he is. If I had been on bottom I would be dead.
Super Super Heavyweight Finals: Cavaca vs Roberto Abreu. Cavaca submitted Cyborg with an achillies lock. Trainspotting has done this to me twice since the worlds – so I guess he was inspired.
Absolute Finals: Roger Gracie vs Romulo Barral. Romulo couldn’t fight due to injury (mentioned above) and Roger Gracie was crowned champion yet again. Roger is the first fighter to reach 3 Open Weight titles in the black belt. Roger may not be from this planet.
Women’s Finals – Lightweight: Luanna Alzuguir vs Kyra Gracie (1×1 – advantages) Kyra took gold on the judges decision.
Women’s Finals – Absolute/Open Weight: Luanna Alzuguir vs Gabrielle Garcia – Fighting from the same team, they decided not to fight the final but did the banner dance and got much deserved praise from their team.
Again, it is impossible for me to express in writing the impact that this trip had on me personally, athletically, and professionally. Prior to June 3, 2010 I said to everyone “I am going to the Mundials.” From now on, I will say that “we” are going to the Mundials. I saw the biggest teams in BJJ battling at the highest level. I also saw our team, a much younger and smaller team, making an enormous mark. I was blessed with the opportunity to compete in this event but even more blessed to have found Julius Park, Baltimore’s Crazy 88, and all of my wonderful friends and teammates. I have the very unusual privilege of traveling and fighting alongside my wife, Ms. Cathy, who also competed this year. BJJ has brought us closer together – giving us a bond and teammates in life but also teammates in our beloved sport. I want to thank everyone that helped me get to the World Championship of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2010 and thank in advance those same people for already helping me prepare for 2011. It is my hope that this article will at very least inspire one more person to take the challenge to better him or herself and our legendary team.