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Insight into the Marcelo Garcia brown belt dream team: history, techniques, discussion

The brown belt dream team at the 2014 No-Gi Pans. Photo: Erin Herle
The brown belt dream team at the 2014 No-Gi Pans. Photo: Erin Herle

At Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City, there is a team of athletes who have been sweeping tournaments. They came on the rise last year after individually winning competitions here and there. But today, they’ve discovered their unity in both training and competition so well that their tactics have succeeded in many accomplishments and titles.

The brown belt dream team as they’re called includes Marcos Silva Tinoco, Matheus Diniz, Jonathan Satava, Dillon Danis, Mansher Singh Khera and Joel Burgess. Their origins all differ as to when they exactly began training full-time with Marcelo and where they traveled from to be part of the team but now they all share a very similar lifestyle.

Some of their weight divisions overlap but from feather to sometimes heavy they have the titles covered. Their opportunities granted to them by Marcelo allow them a life of full-time training but their work ethics provide them with the results.

Marcelo Garcia himself pays close attention to the ebb and flow of their training, their interpersonal relationships and even their living situations. “I try to develop such a good environment that it encourages everyone to train. No fights, no chance to complain about small things, never lose the focus from what is the big goal: get better at Jiu-Jitsu and be able to live from Jiu-Jitsu later on. Everyone will enjoy it no matter if they are hurt or they’re upset, they come here and they’re going to have a good place and always enjoy training.”

Marcos, right. Photo: Erin Herle
Marcos, right. Photo: Erin Herle

Marcos’ arrival came in 2012 when he met Marcelo through his wife after moving from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The two were living in Memphis, TN and working at an affiliate school but Marcos often traveled back to New York to train under the legend. It was early this year when Marcos became part of the team in New York full-time. Since then he has competed in the major tournaments on both coasts and internationally. In 2013 he came up short as a brown belt at the gi Worlds, earning second in the middleweight division. By the following year the gold was his after closing out with teammate Dillon. In no-gi he closed out the medium-heavy division with another teammate Matheus twice at the Pans in NYC in 2013 and 2014.

Matheus after winning his second No-Gi Worlds title. Photo: Erin Herle
Matheus after winning his second No-Gi Worlds title. Photo: Erin Herle

Matheus Diniz came from the same hometown as Marcelo in Brazil. When Matheus began training, Marcelo would come by to train and it was then that he made the connection. By the time he was a purple belt in 2011 he began training full-time as much as he could with Marcelo in the states before he’d travel back to his hometown. In 2013 he began his trek of collecting titles by closing out the 2013 No-Gi Pans with teammate Marcos and winning the 2013 No-Gi Worlds medium-heavy title. He came up with a bronze at the gi Worlds in 2014 but accomplished the same exact no-gi feat at Pans and Worlds as the previous year. He currently lives in a house with other serious athletes who are focused on the same goals from the academy.

Jon Satava winning his Pan ttile. Photo: Erin Herle
Jon Satava winning his Pan ttile. Photo: Erin Herle

Jonathan Satava, a Long Island native spends his time teaching and training in the city during the week but travels home to family on the weekends. Considered to have the most replicated game of Marcelo’s, he moved to the academy as a blue belt. His breakthrough came in 2012 when he won No-Gi Pans absolute as a purple belt then followed up with a No-Gi Worlds title and a silver in the absolute. After being promoted to brown belt in 2013, he went on to win the No-Gi Pans. By 2014 he earned the gi Pans title with Dillon and earned third in the absolute. More recently he repeated the No-Gi Pans title but this time with an absolute title as well. No-Gi Worlds this year was another win for him as he closed the middleweight division.

Dillon after winning at the 2014 Pans. Photo: Erin Herle
Dillon after winning at the 2014 Pans. Photo: Erin Herle

Dillon Danis was the last to enter the dream team. He trained four years in both wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu as a teenager in New Jersey before moving next door to the Marcelo Garcia Academy in NYC at the age of 19 in 2013. Prior to the major move he traveled from NJ to train twice a week. He first made his appearance at the 2013 gi Worlds, which was his first tournament as a new brown belt, when he got to the quarter-finals of the middleweight division submitting all three of his opponents up to that point. But by the end of the year at No-Gi Pans he had put it all together to close out the middleweight division with teammate Jon Satava and third in the open. The gi Pans in 2014 gave him the win after again closing out with Jon. But at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship he and Jon fought in the finals instead of closing out, a move that is considered controversial by most. He earned the win and a month later closed out the middle division at gi Worlds with teammate Marcos. Most recently he closed middleweight and the absolute at 2014 No-Gi Pans  with Jon and closed middleweight with Jon again at 2014 No-Gi Worlds and then closed out with Munchi in the absolute.

Munchi won the double gold at 2013 No-Gi Worlds. Photo: Erin Herle
Munchi won the double gold at 2013 No-Gi Worlds. Photo: Erin Herle

Mansher Singh Khera, known as Munch or Munchi, started training with Marcelo in 2010 as a white belt. He transferred over to the gym from a Queens academy less than a year after his Jiu-Jitsu journey began. All of his promotions have been earned under Marcelo making him the first of the homegrown. He made some strides in tournaments every once in awhile even placing second at gi worlds in 2013 as a purple belt losing to Michael Liera Jr. Later that year after being promoted to brown belt alongside teammate Jon Satava, he went on to win the 2013 No-Gi Pans lightweight division and accomplished double gold at the No-Gi Worlds. He again came up short against Liera Jr. at the gi Worlds of 2014 placing third in the lightweight division. However, he accomplished the same titles in no-gi as the previous year but instead of winning the absolute at No-Gi Worlds he closed it out with teammate Dillon.

Joel securing a crucifix, his most successful technique. Photo: Erin Herle
Joel securing a crucifix, his most successful technique. Photo: Erin Herle

Joel Burgess moved from upstate New York to the Big Apple Feb. of 2012 as a purple belt after a short career in MMA. He visited the academy almost every month for two years before making the official move. Today he works as an assistant instructor, he’s the forum admin of MGinaction and oversees the daily operations and production of Estimainaction. He carries the weight of the feather division at most tournaments, earning his first major win at the 2013 No-Gi Pans closing out the weight division with German Salas. Moving on the No-Gi Worlds, he earned the silver medal in the feather division out in California. At the beginning of this year he was promoted to brown belt, his first promotion under Marcelo. Later in the year he won No-Gi Pans again, this time on his own accord. At No-Gi Worlds he secured the bronze.

In a video by John”Ric” Ricard, five of the dream team members discuss their tournaments and training in a casual setting. As an added plus, each of the athletes choose a technique they use well and break it down for viewers. You can watch the documentary here:

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