Thursday June 4: Woke up to some abysmal weather, especially considering we were in Southern California. Took a cab and got to the Walter Pyramid around 10.30 or so in the morning. Spent some time getting used to the place and such, checked out the merchandise booths.
I managed to catch up with Adam Adshead and the Factory BJJ guys and chatted with them for a bit. It was good to meet them. Didn't see anyone else I knew well enough to just go up to and say hi, but I definitely saw some recognizable people.
Around a half hour or so before my division's scheduled start time I went down to the holding area to get warmed up. John from Factory BJJ was in my division and we passed a bit of the time chatting, but he got called up first at I don't know, maybe half past 2.
I was there for a good while before my name got called. I don't know how long, but it felt like forever. Then when my name did get called, it felt like another eternity (I was told later it was around 40 minutes or so) before I even had my gi checked.
Match 1: v. Omar Rashid, from Rick Young's Blackbelt Academy
The match started with us working for sleeve grips. He jumps guard and right away starts to look for a cross lapel choke. He doesn't get it (though the scrapes on my face are still evident some 12 hours later) and I go for an Ezequiel. He doesn't let me get it, and keeps me pushed away. He keeps working for a sweep by trying to underhook my leg, but I use the opportunity to underhook his head and go for a choke.
After a few minutes of this, the referee stands us both up, gives each of us an advantage (for stalling, apparently, I'm not sure how this works) and makes us go again. He jumps guard though and it's the same thing over again, albeit this time he's got a bit more urgency about his game.
I don't let him get anything, he tries a couple of sweeps (from the same underhook setup) but I base out. I'm trying to pop his legs open to pass his guard but I guess I left a hole open so he jumps in and goes for a triangle. He cinches it in, but I'm nowhere close to tapping. However, my best guess is that the Mundial-brand adrenaline was pumping, because I just couldn't break his legs open. Time gets called and the referee awards him an advantage for the triangle.
Result: LOSS VIA POINTS: Me - 0 points, 1 advantage. Omar: 0 points, 2 advantages.
It was a bit of a surprise, as I really didn't think we were taking that much time. I thought I still had maybe another minute to get things done. I shook hands with him and we thanked each other. He seems like a nice guy.
I don't feel like I was very affected by the atmosphere. Once we touched hands, it was like I forgot where I was and it was just the two of us. Having said that, I was surprised by all the faces I could make out. Robert Drysdale was walking around, Marcelo Garcia was sitting a few rows behind me and I could swear I saw Saulo Ribeiro there. While waiting for my match, I saw Leo Vieira and Lucas Leite chatting to some competitors.
So for me, yes the experience was quite surreal, but as far as the actual Jiu-Jitsu part, I don't think I let it get to me. I went in with a strategy and maybe I was too rigid in following it, whatever, it didn't pay off. Full credit to Omar, who played his game, stopped me from playing mine, and got the win fairly.
While it was an extremely disappointing way to lose - the worst part was that I was still fresh, and had to go home without even sweating - I'm trying to take as many positives from this as I can. Don't get me wrong, this is pretty hard to swallow, but judging from the sheer amount of what-if-20-20-hindsight-coulda-shoulda-woulda scenarios running through my head, I definitely have a list of things to analyse and to work on.
I'm so very thankful to God that I even got the chance to be here, to see what it was like at this level of competition (even if it was only for six minutes) and that I have such an amazing wife and family, who have fully supported my crazy globe-trotting BJJ adventures. They know I'm not done yet and they don't care.
I'll be taking Friday off, before heading back to catch all the black belt action on Saturday and Sunday.
When I get home I think I'll be giving my BJJ mind a good rest, during which time I look forward to occupying my Dungeons & Dragons mind. Next competition stop: Bangkok!