Pan 2011: when the heart won’t let them stop

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Every age range and bracket of black belts shined at the Pan in Irvine last weekend. The talent did not disappoint the huge crowds gathered to watch their matches.

Absolute co-victors Pimenta and Canal / Photos: Deb Blyth

In the master open class, Denilson Pimenta of GF Team closed out the bracket with his friend and teammate Theodoro Canal. Pimenta had four matches leading up to his big win. Two he won by points and two he won by submission – Ezequiel (forearm) chokes. Unfortunately, Pimenta hurt his back in the second match, but he gallantly fought on, claiming gold at the end. “I felt my back a lot during the matches,” he said, “But my heart wouldn’t let me stop.”

In his lightweight division, Pimenta came in second to surfing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu great, Joel Tudor of BJJ Revolution. Pimenta had three fights in total, shutting down the first two with his trademark Ezekiel choke and coming up short in the finals with a referee’s decision going to Tudor. “It was right,” Pimenta said, referring to the referee proclaiming Tudor the winner of their match, “It was a good experience. It’s been good being with friends and closing out the open with my friend Theodoro. I’m super happy with the support from my team, in Brazil and America.”

Pimenta said he’s going to go home and train to fight in the adult division for the Worlds. “Black belt is black belt,” he said, “adult or master division; they are all the same. You have to fight quicker and take the lead earlier in the master’s division, but either way, you just have to make sure you get ahead of your opponent because whoever does controls the match.”

Joel Tudor was happy with his day as well. Coming in first at the Pan was a great experience for the eight-time longboarding world champion, who says doing Jiu-Jitsu feels the same to him as when he first started surfing. “It was very ‘grass roots and clubby’ feeling when I first started surfing,” he says, “This is what Jiu-Jitsu feels like to me now. I love this community and the camaraderie of Jiu-Jitsu. It’s not like this in surfing anymore.”

Tudor fought two matches, winning both with a triangle, leading up to his final with Pimenta. “He’s a judo guy,” Tudor said, referring to Pimenta’s toughness, “He was so strong! Once we were on the ground, I could tell he wasn’t going to pass, and I ended up getting the ref’s decision. A judo guy like that is hard to beat.”

Joel Tudor celebrates with friends.

As for surfing, Tudor says his risky days in the water are done. “My days of putting my life on the line are over. A big wave guy died last week at Mavericks. When you have kids yourself, it’s a big eye-opener.” So, expect to see Tudor, who has a lot of passion for the sport of Jiu-Jitsu, around the competition circuit in the future. “Our team with Clark (Gracie) is slowly building momentum. We’re all getting behind him to make our team great.”

In the master feather division, Theodoro Canal of GF Team defeated Andre Carvalho Monteiro of BJJ Revolution to take gold in his division. He had three fights in total and was very happy with his win. “It’s been really good,” he said, “This is only the second time I’ve fought in the master’s division. It’s the same type of competition from adult to master, but there’s just the time difference. You have to fight faster because you have less time.”

Even though the experience was good for him and he won the gold medal, like most elite athletes, it wasn’t enough. “Next time I will do better,” he said.

Canal closed out the open class with his friend and GF Team teammate Denilson Pimenta and was happy with his finish and performance over the weekend. “I’m very happy,” he said, “I’m only 155 pounds, so doing the absolute is hard on my back, my arms, and legs, when I compete against such big guys. But I train very hard every day.”

Fabio Leopoldo after winning gold in his division

In the master heavyweight division, Fabio Leopoldo of Gracie Morumbi took gold in his final match against Fernando Jose Di Pierro of Alliance. Leopoldo said all his matches were difficult leading up to the final. “My first match was tough,” he said, “I won by an advantage. I stayed in front of the fight. It was a good fight.”

His second fight was no easier, although he was able to get the Ezequiel choke in. “I put all my game out on the mat,” he said, “It was a tough match.” In the third and final match, against Di Pierro, Leopoldo submitted him in about 29 seconds with a leg lock. “Nobody scored any points on me today,” Leopoldo said.

Leopoldo really looks forward to fighting in the Pan every year. “This is the biggest tournament in the World for masters,” he said. And although he’s won it multiple times in his life, this experience was particularly special because his mother was in town watching him fight. “This is her first time seeing me win a tournament,” he said, “I want to thank all my students for pushing me so hard in training, especially Erik Klinger.”

A jovial and jubilant Senior 1 black belt, Paulo Guillobel of Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu took to the mats with an upbeat attitude and ended up winning gold in his division and silver in the open class after a referee’s decision didn’t go his way.

In his middleweight division, Guillobel had three matches and each time he won he came off the mats shaking his head and smiling. “I injured my ribs three months ago and I have bone spurs in my arm which are still bad,” he said, “When the sign-ups came around for the Pan, I decided I might as well try to defend my title.”

Guillobel was able to defend his title, but it was harder than he thought. He seemed in disbelief each time he won. “All my matches were tough,” he said, “I came here out of shape. I’m going to make a DVD on how to win a tournament really out of shape,” he laughed. Guillobel won two matches on points leading up to his final with Shawn Hammonds of Lloyd Irvin M.A Academy. “I felt ok,” he said, “I felt better last year. I just really wanted to win this year. I had to use the gas in my tank wisely.”

Guillobel celebrating with his coach, Saulo Ribeiro

Although he was tired from his divisional win earlier in the day, Guillobel hung around and fought in the absolute, with encouragement from his coach and friend, Saulo Ribeiro. He won four of those matches heading into the end of the day finals with Roberto Godoi of Godoi Jiu-Jitsu. When the buzzer rang, they were tied 0-0, with the referee raising Godoi’s hand as the victor. “It could have gone either way,” Guillobel said, “It was a great experience. Couldn’t be better. I’m glad I competed.”

Guillobel and Godoi after their absolute battle

Guillobel said he’s going to keep going with his training and competition schedule. “I might jump into the adult division to test myself. And I want one more gold medal at any good tournament this year.”

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