Countdown to the 2016 Worlds: remember Romulo Barral’s roller coaster ride in Long Beach

Rominho at the 2007 Worlds against Xande Ribeiro
Rominho at the 2007 Worlds against Xande Ribeiro

Five-time world champion Romulo Barral is celebrating another birthday this Tuesday, May 3.

We take the opportunity to look back into his amazing record at the World Jiu-Jitsu championship.

The best analogy to describe Barral’s history at the most important event of the gentle art calendar is a roller coaster.

He had his ups, downs, spins, loops, stops and go again.

2007 – The rise

We begin in 2007, the first year the Worlds moved from Rio de Janeiro to California.

At the medium-heavy division, Rominho went all the way to the final against another living legend, Saulo Ribeiro.

The triangle attack and Saulo’s cool to defend it immediately created a classic moment in Jiu-Jitsu’s history.

And Barral did more that year, as he became the intruder in the open class final.

Everyone in the Long Beach Pyramid was expecting a second encounter between reigning champion Xande Ribeiro and four-time runner up Roger Gracie, still looking for his first absolute gold.

The thing is the semifinal on one side of the bracket put Xande against Rominho and two advantages were enough to put Rominho in his first ever open class final.

In fact, the only defeat that year came in the absolute final, against teammate Roger, through a choke from the mount.

Rominho was upset, but beating Roger that year seemed impossible.

2009 – The confirmation

We jump two years ahead in time to 2009, again at the Long Beach Pyramid.

Rominho was coming back from a severe shoulder injury followed by a complicated surgery that left him out of commission for over a year.

He even thought his career was finished, but after a lot of work and commitment to his recovery, he made it back to the big leagues.

In the medium-heavy division, he finished three out of five opponents on his way to the second world title.

The final was against well-known rival Tarsis Humphreys and it was a tough one.

Humphreys had his top game on point and was able to stand firmly against Barral’s spider guard game.

Even so, at the end the referees saw Barral as the more active and awarded him the title.

In the open class, Rominho once again made his way to the final.

He finished all four of his opponents before the final, including a beautiful triangle on Gabriel Vella in the semifinal.

Unfortunately, the gold medal match was once more against the irresistible Roger Gracie.

The only man to finish all his opponents in a world championship edition passed Rominho’s guard, got to mount and finished with a choke for his second open class title.

Barral knew he was in hot waters even before the match: “If I only had a good judo game to be on top…” said Rominho.

2010 – The drama

One year later, Rominho was back to try his third world title in his division and maybe finally nab that open class gold medal.

Unfortunately, the 2010 Worlds was the starting point of another sad moment for Barral.

He did great both in his weight division and the open class, reaching the final on both.

First, in the open class, he beat Leoanrdo Neves and Murilo Santana to make it to the quarterfinals against then upcoming talent Bernardo Faria.

A sneaky no-arm triangle granted Rominho the spot in the semifinal, once again against Xande Ribeiro.

Three advantages for near-guard passes against two by Xande for a takedown and a sweep meant Rominho’s third appearance on Jiu-Jitsu’s most important match of the year.

Roger Gracie would be the opponent once again, but then fate got in the way.

After another brilliant run at the medium-heavy division, Rominho met Tarsis Humphreys in the final once again.

Near the mid-point of the match, Humphreys got a leg lock in place and as Rominho tried to escape, he twisted his knee and had to give up.

The injury was pretty severe and Rominho could not compete in the oen class final one day later.

For the first time since 1996, the black belt absolute had no final match and Roger became the first ever three-time champion.

2011 – The goodbye

In Barral’s roller coaster ride at the Worlds, 2011 was the lowest point.

After a ligament surgery to fix the injury sustained the year before, he went back in the game, but something was not right.

First, in the open class, the three-time finalist, suffered an unexpected early round defeat to much lighter Rodrigo Caporal.

Then, in his weight class, the third title was once again postponed by a 2-0 defeat to Sergio Moraes via a sweep in the final moments of the match.

After the final, Rominho took off his belt and top of the gi in the middle of the arena and announced he was done with competitions.

The crowd roared and an internet campaign kicked off immediately asking Barral to reconsider.

We’re all glad he did.

2012 – The comeback 

The champion was back, confidence restored and guard game on point.

The 2012 Worlds saw a renovated Barral on the mats of the Long Beach pyramid.

“Last year I was going through a rough patch with my knee injury and my confidence low. This time I tested the waters in events before the Worlds and got my game back on,” said Rominho after winning his third medium-heavy gold medal.

Diego Herzog was the victim in the final, choked from the mount.

Rominho event tried his luck in the open class once again, stopping only at Antônio Cara de Sapato, in the quarterfinals.

About the public retirement one year before, he clarified what happened: “I was caught in the heat of the moment. Later on, I thought things through and realized I still have what it takes to compete in the highest of levels.”

2013 – Hall of fame

Two guard passes over new rival Guto Campos secured the 6-0 lead and his spot in the final of the medium-heavy division once again.

Even better, after teammate Braulio Estima beat Andre Galvão 6-2, the gold medal match became a friendly affair.

There was no fight and Braulio conceded the title to his friend, making Barral a four-time world champion and eligible for the IBJJF Hall of Fame, award he would receive one year later in a ceremony one day bfore the 2014 Worlds.

Barral vs. Guto at the 2013 Worlds
Barral vs. Guto at the 2013 Worlds

This time, he did not venture into the troubled waters of the open class, leaving it to the younger generation.

Smiling again, Rominho told GRACIEMAG what had changed since the low point of 2011: “A serious injury and a long recovery disheartened me. When I came back I was fighting without hunger. That changed in 2012 and now I am fighting without fear or pressure and results started appearing again.”

2014 – The icing on the cake 

Rominho’s final appearance at the world championship ended with a second place finish, closing out with his teammate and friend Braulio Estima.

Another semifinal against Guto Campos was the pathway to the gold medal match.

This time, Campos was DQed after crossing his leg over Rominho’s knee from the outside to the inside.

There was no final once again, as the teammates closed out the medium-heavy division.

Rominho at the 2014 Worlds
Rominho at the 2014 Worlds

Months later, Braulio’s anti-doping test came back positive for Methylhexaneamine and he had to forfeit the title.

Rominho inherited the gold medal, becoming a five-time world champion.

The 2016 World Jiu-Jitsu championship is scheduled June 1*-5, once again at the Long beach pyramid.

The final deadline to register for the event is May 24.

Click here for more info and to register now.

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