The ghost of close outs and why it’s not easy to make it go away

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Paulo Miyao's habd raised without breaking a sweat in the final against brother João

Paulo Miyao’s hand raised without breaking a sweat in the final against brother João

It’s a phenomenon that happens frequently at Jiu-Jitsu championships, specially in the black belt division. It scares a good part of the crowd and also organizers, it is debated, cursed, but it’s back the next year to haunt us all.

We’re talking about the close outs. It happens when two teammates/training partners/friends meet in the final and decide not to fight for the gold medal, choosing the champion in a gentlemen’s agreement.

In the recent 2014 Pan, five out ten finals in the male adult black belt division turned out to be close outs. João and Paulo Miyao (light-feather), Mario Reis and Gianni Grippo (feather), Lucas Lepri and Michael Langhi (light), Guto Campos and Keenan Cornelius (medium-heavy), Yuri Simões and Lucas Leite (heavy).

The absence of half of the gold medal matches caused a big part of the audience to be distraught. The complaining scattered over the internet and was heard on Facebook. “It’s disrespectful,” said one reader. “If you want to be in the final, win the semifinal,” replied another. As you can see, it’s a theme that divides the Jiu-Jitsu community.

In 2012, one suggestion generated intense debate on GRACIEMAG. Professor Claudinho Arrais proposed that close outs would not count points in the teams competition. Other inputs have surfaced. Mackenzie Dern, featherweight runner up at the 2014 Pan suggested: “The match should always take place, even if it’s an exhibition. A simple showcase of technique between the two finalists with the final result according to what they agreed before would be more interesting for the crowd,” said Mackenzie. The Mendes Bros and the Miyao Bros did that one time in Abu Dhabi.

MMA figther and Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Vinny Magalhães went further:“Either you set the bracket putting training partners on the same side or you make final matches obligatory. And if one of the athletes says he’s hurt and cannot fight the final, the semifinalist takes his place,” wrote Vinny on Twitter.

Atos JJ's teammates Claudio Calasans Jr and JT Torres fought for real at the 2014 European middleweigh final

Atos JJ’s teammates Claudio Calasans Jr and JT Torres fought for real at the 2014 European middleweigh final

The issue expands as the ghost of close outs can bring about an even more scaring monster, the fake match between teammates. Would the audience appreciate that? What do athletes think of that? What about the sponsors? Let’s talk about it.

IBJJF proposed measure against close outs, which was not adopted

What many don’t know is that recently the IBJJF went after measures to make close outs harder to happen. The entity proposed to team leaders the building of the brackets with teammates on the same side, so they would meet in the semifinals and not in the final. The majority of the team leaders present defeated the IBJJF proposal. So, the tradition continues, a tradition that has its supporters.

“I love the close outs. Despite having only one gold medal, both athletes are seen as champions. Our sport is a team sport,” said someone on Facebook.

So, what’s your input on the matter? If you have a solution, please comment.

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There are 20 comments for this article
  1. Emilio Samartin at 2:27 pm

    I like what IBJJF proposed to have the teammates meet in the semi finals. I have been doing jiu-jitsu for 20 years now and I was disappointed with all the close outs. This is not a team sport. It is an individual sport with team trophy rankings which is why the big teams don't like the proposed solution. Closing out the bracket maximizes the points for the team trophy. It is much more beneficial to the sport to have opposing teams meet in the final.

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