An odd snapping sound filled the IPIC Arena at the 2015 WPPJC and Felipe Pena immediately released the toehold on Luiz Panza’s right leg. Panza himself took a while to realize what had just happened and he even said he was ok to continue. That was when he looked down and saw his ankle bending awkwardly, evidence of a double fracture on his lower leg.
Panza was transported to a local hospital in Abu Dhabi and went into surgery a few days later. He knew he had a long road ahead. “It was hard times, I have to confess. Nevertheless, since the surgery I kept focused and did everything I could to be back competing, since physiotherapy until training,” says Panza.
After such a stressful situation, Panza tells us how he dealt with the psychological side of returning to Jiu-Jitsu: “It never crossed my mind that I was not going to be able to return. I knew I was going to have to go through this hard times and then come back stronger.”
Panza is known for his attacks to legs and feet of opponents, but that also makes his own legs vulnerable. Even so, he says he’s not afraid of anything: “I am going to try to play a more varied game, but if I find myself on that position I’ll go for it. What happened was an accident and I have no fear of happening again.”
The return to the big stage took place at the 2016 Pan and Panza won the superheavy division with a toehold attack to Alex Ceconi in the final.