The last 2 days of the Mundials were crazy, with loads of awesome matches to be seen. I didn’t stay the whole day on Saturday, and had to leave before Kron Gracie and Marcelo Garcia had their matches, but I did get to watch Braulio Estima and Roger Gracie in their absolute matches.
On the Sunday I got there in time to catch Cobrinha’s first match. Later that day I met up again with the Factory BJJ team, as well as fellow CMD trainer, Cecil Burch! It was excellent to meet him finally, and he struck me as being a great guy. I hung around until just after the last matches of the day then left for the airport.
So here’s a bunch of random thoughts from the competition:
I was really struck by the sheer scale of the Mundials. When they say “world championships” they mean it. It’s crazy how big this competition is. ESPECIALLY for a guy from South-East Asia. I’m used to having 3 to 4 guys in my division. Everything wraps up nicely in a day and you can stay to watch every last match. And if you’ve been to maybe 2 of them, you already know at least half the people there. Now, the Mundials, unless you don’t care at all about life outside BJJ, it’s just about impossible to watch everyone’s division. It’s exhausting, really…in a good way, but still. It would be so easy to burn out from 4 solid days of BJJ, 9 to 12 hours each.
Roger and Braulio were easily, for me, the definite highlight of the whole Mundials. I saw loads of people play for points and then stall to the end so it was both really satisfying and really inspiring to see people go out and actually submit their opponents. As far as the matches I watched, that is to say, as many as possible, Roger tapped everyone out and Braulio won all his matches by submission except his division final.
Braulio Estima has, in my opinion, the single coolest name in all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, rated higher than even “Cobrinha” on the grounds that it’s his actual name.
My favourite match of the competition was probably Roger Gracie v. Rafael Lovato. This one was pretty amazing to see; almost no other match (Cobrinha v. Rafael Mendes and Kron Gracie v. Lucas Leite were probably the others) that I watched had as many people in the audience more pumped up to watch. For me, this match wins out because it’s the only one that ended with a submission instead of points or referee decision.
Gilbert Burns, after winning a match on Saturday, decides to taunt the losing player’s team, by doing the little Atos victory dance – 2 slashing motions and a stabbing motion with an imaginary sword (the Atos crest is a sword and shield) – in their direction. Normally that sort of thing is just being a poor winner. But when the team you decide to flip off is Alliance, people will start wondering if you’ve lost your marbles. The whole Alliance team was singing chants at him for maybe a few minutes, it was awesome. Not the greatest exercise in public relations but really fun to watch.
Gui Mendes, after winning his division final, also decides to do the little Atos dance and use it to cheese off the Alliance bench. The only thing was his opponent (Samuel Braga) was from Gracie Barra. Then, after the match (more below) he goes and celebrates with the Barra team, which at that point was sitting right next to Alliance.
Samuel Braga, after being (IMHO) ruthlessly and blatantly stalled out by Gui Mendes, decides to shove Gui and get in his face. Yes, what happened to him in that match was really frustrating, but he lost any sympathy the crowd had for him. The organizers also weren’t impressed, and DQ’ed him, stating that “there will be no 2nd place in this division”.
After Michael Langhi won his division final match, against Gilbert Burns no less, Sergio Moraes runs on to the mat and does the Atos JJ dance at Langhi, whose response was to get his hands in a machine gun motion and riddle Moraes, who falls over flat, with scores of imaginary bullets. Just about everyone in the room went crazy for that. Makes you wonder how long they were waiting to do that.
After Sergio Moraes won his division semi-final and Romulo Barral won his division final, they spent time to give their opponents respect. They got their team to cheer and/or sing to honour the loser, which I thought was really classy.
I get there on Saturday and find a spot on the bleachers. After a minute I notice a guy sitting a few seats away. I’m thinking “hey, that guy looks just like Xande Ribeiro. Can’t be him though, he’s way too huge.” And then I notice he’s wearing a “University of Jiu-Jitsu” shirt and he’s talking to Saulo. What? He looks a lot skinnier on Youtube.
My vote for the best team would probably go to Alliance. Not because of any success on the mats, but because of the tremendous support they gave their players, it was nothing short of amazing. Fabio Gurgel was always there to lead the team in chants and songs. They were easily and by far the most vocal bunch of supporters – every time they won a big match, everybody in the room knew about it. They also had a huge flag bearing the team logo and waved it every chance they got. I wish every team was as supportive of their guys as Alliance.
For much of the time I really enjoyed the location of my seat, which was on the side with the bulk of the Barra supporters. The guys I was most there to watch were Roger and Braulio so this meant everyone near me was also cheering for them. A bonus to this was that it was the best possible place to watch the Alliance team go crazy.
After Rafael Lovato lost in his division I saw him sitting by himself. I could feel the anguish and frustration from all the way in the stands. He didn’t break down or anything, he was just really quiet. Some guys will lose it right on the mats and I’ll feel bad for them. Rafael sat there by himself and it was heartbreaking. Royler walked up to him, patted him on the shoulder and walked away without saying anything. I would not even try to compare my disappointment to his, and it gave me some valuable perspective.
There was another moment of silence on Sunday to honour Helio Gracie. The whole building went dead silent and for just a minute, we were all family members at a belated wake. They played a video of his life and you could see all these world-class BJJ players looking up at Helio. “What? No I just have some dirt in my eye.”
Marcelo Garcia is still incredible.
The Budo Videos guys were really cool as well, and really helped me out. I needed to get some stuff that they didn’t have available at the competition so they brought it over from their store (which I also went to, it’s a bit small but very impressive…just costs a lot to cab there from downtown Long Beach).
Cobrinha won his division semi-final and final matches by referee decision. I know that these matches are really close but I did feel just a bit unsatisfied. Not just as a spectator but I can only imagine the sense of injustice felt by the “loser”. It happened a whole lot of times that the score would finish perfectly tied, and the referees would pick the winner. The thing I found a bit awkward is that both players would always raise their hands and act like they already won.
At the Budo Videos booth looking to buy some dvds, the guy I’m talking to asks me to hold on a sec. He says to someone behind me, “hey, Rickson”. I’m thinking, “ehh?” I turn my head to the left and sure enough, Rickson Gracie is standing right there. I did a pretty good job of being cool, but what I really wanted to do was scream, ask him for an autograph and a photo and then have a heart attack.
Demian Maia and BJ Penn were there to check the competition out. That was pretty cool to see.
My favourite personality at the competition was the announcer on Thursday, no idea who he is. He was a big guy and whenever someone didn’t show up on time and missed the warnings, the whole room would hear something to the effect of, “(NAME), you are NOW oFFICially DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE KEWWWWWWWWWWWWWW” in this awesome bass voice. It was brutal. Sometimes he would do it in a southern drawl. It got to the point where some audience members would sing along.