“I didn’t realize that he was that much better than the rest! Once Roger lands on top, no adversary can move!” With these two phrases, Guy Ritchie (Director of Sherlock Holmes, Snatch, Rock n’Rolla, among others) defined his Professor’s performance at the 2009 World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
Another accurate description, only shorter, could be the word “irresistible.” On the weekend of June 6-7 2009, Roger Gracie stepped on the mats of the Long Beach Pyramid nine times to face nine different opponents. The outcome was the same on every match: Choke from the mount. Paulo Streckert, Fernando Di Pierro, Rafael Lovato Jr., Claudio Calasans Jr. and Romulo Barral were the victims in the open class. In the super-heavyweight division, he choked Adrien Domingues, Bruno Bastos, Bernardo Faria and Ricardo Abreu.
Nevertheless, Roger was still humble when asked if that performance, added to all the other accomplishments he had in his career up until that moment, made him the best competitor ever in Jiu-Jitsu: “I’m not going to say I’m the best, but I’ll say that I’ll always be ready to be among the best.” Unlike Roger, his opponents and friends had a lot to say about him that year.
“They say Roger is good because he is big, but there’s a lot of big guys out there. He is very skilled, that’s for sure. He is one step ahead of the rest of us,” defined Romulo Barral, the opponent in the open class final, who himself had an amazing showing at the 2009 Worlds, finishing seven out of 10 opponents.
“This is the invisible Jiu-Jitsu.” stated Saulo Ribeiro.
“He makes it look easy passing the guards of fellas like Barral, Lovato, Demente, which for sure is not,” said another highly graduated observer.
Xande Ribeiro, the guy responsible for Roger’s last two defeats prior to that championship (in 2006 and 2008, also in the Worlds absolute final), joked after the friend’s double gold: “Next year, I’ll be back so we can put on that show again.” Unfortunately, in 2010 Barral spoiled Xande’s plans and defeated Saulo’s brother in the semifinal of the absolute.
In closing, a bit of humor to talk about maybe the only aspect of Roger’s Jiu-Jitsu that weekend that wasn’t perfect, the standing game. After being thrown down with style by Calasans Jr in the absolute semifinal, he smiled: “If I don’t go down, it’s not the same fun,” joked the Gracie.
But don’t take our word for it, here is the full video of Roger vs. Barral, in the 2009 Worlds black belt absolute final.
And here is an exclusive photo gallery of Roger’s best moments that weekend:
Photos by Ivan Trindade
This post is the first of a series of special features that will remember the greatest moments of the greatest competition in the Jiu-Jitsu calendar.
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