The 2014 World Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi took place at Azusa, California, on Oct. 4-5th. During the black belt finals Gracie Barra teammates, AJ Agazarm and Rodrigo Freitas had no agreement and decided to fight for the gold medal. One takedown by AJ earned him the victory and his first world championship title as a black belt.
The fact that both athletes decided to duel instead of closing out their weight category by picking a winner through camaraderie surprised many of the spectators in the stadium watching the competition. Fighting a teammate in a tournament still not a practice commonly accepted by Jiu-Jitsu fighters that often prefer to have a gentlemen’s agreement.
The tournament had four other black belt categories where teammates clashed in the finals including: Feather (Samir Chantre vs. Osvaldo Moizinho), Middle (Marcelo Mafra vs. Tiago Abreu), Heavy (Jackson Sousa vs. Lucas Leite), Super-Heavy (Joao Assis vs. Luiz Panza); besides them only AJ and Rodrigo actually fought while the other pairs just entered the mat to watch their partners have the arm raised by the judge and celebrate.
After this happened, GRACIEMAG was curious to find out what might have motivated both Gracie Barra teammates to face each other in the finals and how did they feel about it? Here is what they said:
“After winning the No-Gi World Championship, I was overwhelmed with happiness. It is something I have been seeking to accomplish since I began Jiu-Jitsu quite sometime ago, but just like anything of worth, it did not come easy; there were many obstacles to overcome.
Competing in Jiu-Jitsu often takes the form of politics—the practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community. Politics are seen throughout every tournament. It is evident when deciding what two members will represent in an absolute division for a team, the particular position of athletes in brackets, the favor of a referee during a match, the decision of who will get the victory if the two teammates meet in the final. It does not end there. In the black belt, it is very common to see two team members close out divisions together in the final. Division closeouts are detrimental because not only does it provide a disservice to the community, it also prevents growth and eventually deteriorates the prestige of the tournament.
Prior to this tournament, I anticipated the possibility of both Digo and I needing to compete against each other for the title, as I knew it is something that is important for both of our careers. I was willing to take on any challenge and although that meant I had to take on a teammate, it was something that had to be done. Gracie Barra is a very large team and as we continue to grow, so does the likelihood of two teammates competing against each other.
Many times, I see athletes on the same team closing out divisions and opting out of competing against each other. Unless it is an open or a small tournament, this opting out does more harm than good. It does a severe disservice to the fans and community of BJJ, eliminating the opportunity for fans to experience a fun and exciting event for the finals. Imagine being new to BJJ and thinking you are going to attend the finals of the World Championships to watch some fun and exciting match ups, but when you get there, 7 out of the 10 bouts close out and make no fight. The event becomes nearly pointless.
In order to challenge myself, in order for Digo to challenge himself, in order to prove our strength as teammates, and in order to provide a great tournament for the fans, we elected to compete against each other. I challenge all athletes to do the same, for not just themselves, but the future of our sport.”
“I’m very happy with my performance, I have increasingly come near my main goals and I’m very focused in what’s coming next. Regarding the Worlds No-Gi final, the decision of fighting was taken on the following factors:
1- Being a senior and have not yet achieved this goal, thus I do not believe it would behoove me to give it up for AJ.
2- There was no option of AJ’s giving it to me.
Consequently, the decision was fighting. I believe he has every right to want to duel. Competing against a member of the same team weighs only because you can’t find the support of your team at the time of the fight, since there is no positioning, and no coach. But when it comes to new experiences, it adds a lot and I have matured with all these events in my career.”
So, dear reader, do you think athletes of the same team should fight each other in the championship finals or close out? Comment here!