As the thermometer skyrocketed to a toasty 109 degrees in Tempe, Arizona, over the June 23-24 weekend, Gustavo Dantas was in the middle of running his seventh Arizona State Championship Jiu-Jitsu tournament. The AZ State Championship is the smallest of his five annual tournaments bringing in 450 competitors to fight it out in the heat of the desert.
“I’ve been running tournaments for 11 years,” says Gustavo, who is the Vice-President of the AZSBJJF and owner of GDJJ, which includes his main academy and nine affiliate schools, “The toughest part of this whole venture has been educating people about IBJJF rules and enforcing them.” Gustavo says that people don’t always agree with the rules, but he supports keeping IBJJF tradition and Jiu-Jitsu tournament rules consistent. “I don’t think it’s good to have different sets of rules at tournaments,” he says. “I train my students to follow the IBJJF rules, and my tournaments follow those rules as well. Everyone knows what to expect when you come to one of my events or compete at an IBJJF tournament, and I believe that consistency helps the sport grow.”
Gustavo says his 23 years training in the sport and 11 years promoting tournaments has brought him a lot of wisdom and experience when it comes to understanding what’s important to focus on in the sport of Jiu-Jitsu. Gustavo is a perfectionist when it comes to training, teaching, competing in Jiu-Jitsu, and organizing, promoting, and running Jiu-Jitsu events, and that can have its pros and its cons, but he always works to be better and get better with everything he does. “I don’t know the exact quote,” he says, “but there’s a saying out there that goes something like this: ‘I don’t know the formula for success, but I know that failure comes from trying to please everyone.’ Over the years I have tried to focus less on pleasing others and more on what the results of my efforts have shown constitute a good, high-quality event. I’m always working on getting better.”
Gustavo believes in the power of leaving a legacy behind, and he’s striving to do that for his 12-year-old son, Jonathan. “I want him to know that I started the whole Jiu-Jitsu scene here in Arizona,” he says. “I want him to think, ‘Wow! My dad did this!” But there’s much more to his legacy than that. Through his promotion of Jiu-Jitsu in the southwest, he’s helped countless people find a better life for themselves, and it’s more than evident when talking to the students, families, and fans who crowd in the gymnasium at his tournament. One student said it best, “Gustavo is the man! I want to thank him for all he’s done for so many people.”
Here are some pictures taken by Mannie Romero of the AZ State BJJ Federation from the 7th AZ State Championship: