This weekend in Los Angeles, California, Romulo Barral saw his students assembling and asked them where they were going. “To a tournament in Riverside, seems there’s money in it,” they said.
On Sunday, the Gracie Barra black belt grabbed his gi, got hold of teammate Otavio Sousa and they went to check it out. It was the California BJJ Classic.
“When we got there, I ran smack dab into Josh Barnett,” laughed the Minas Gerais native, in a chat with GRACIEMAG.com. “The coolest part is that Barnett showed up thinking it was a no-gi tournament. Hats off to him: he asked for a gi, tied his belt and stuck his neck out. He gained a fan here,” said Barral.
He also gained an adversary, as the world medium heavyweight champion advanced to the final. First, he had to get past Joao Assis (CheckMat) in a hotly-disputed affair. Then, GB teammate Mike Gomez opened the way for Barral to the semifinal.
At the other end of the bracket, Otavio Sousa managed to sweep Josh Barnett with an omoplata and pass guard, but in the end Barnett managed a straight footlock and went through. In the grand finale , the former UFC champion showed why his ground game is one of the most respected in MMA, and went full steam after Barral.
“I started with a sweep from sitting guard, a maneuver I learned from Braulio [Estima], and he fell on his butt. But he landed already attacking my knee. From there I passed and got my knee on his belly, but the ref didn’t do anything,” narrates Romulo, more than 20 kg lighter than his opponent.
“From there it was bedlam, we were tangled on the ground, in the 50-50 guard, and he got at me with a footlock, heelhook, kneebar… He taught me some new holds, which I think I’ve never seen before. He nearly got me. Well what I mean is, he got me, I just wasn’t going to tap. All I could think of was how I was there representing Jiu-Jitsu, and I could never tap to him,” explained the Brazilian, who turned his back to the crowd – many of whom were Brazilian – who cheered for the American and called for more advantages for Barnett.
“Now I’m here, with two swollen feet, an aching knee, but I’ll be good in a week. I’m happy as aw-get-out with another gold medal,” said Romulo.