At the Jiu-Jitsu theme park, unmanned monorail Braga Neto runs rampant through the absolute, on a weekend of reverence to Helio and Carlson Gracie – and enough adrenaline to raise the hair of even the most hardened roller-coaster fans. This article was originally published in GRACIEMAG.
For one who’s always in California, the feeling is familiar, but always magic. First, the tension of getting through the line. Next, the search for a good vantage point, to get comfy. And lastly, freedom, hollering and arms raised.
It was a sentiment felt by a good portion of those to participate in the great Jiu-Jitsu fest that played out in the CSU Dominguez Hills gymnasium, in the city of Carson, greater Los Angeles, 2,430 athletes signed up and 1,500 fans, teachers, curious onlookers alike who packed the stands (five dollars to get in, cheap if compared to admission to old Walt’s park, two hours away).
What stood out at the event was the splendid mood, with spectators appreciating or analyzing Jiu-Jitsu (“The studying never ends,” Rickson Gracie would admit, at the edge of the fight areas), and so many others carrying out a breadth of dealings to do with the sport. Nevertheless, few that weekend were as overcome with joy as Antônio Braga Neto, 21, and Raissa Paiva, 1 and a half.
He, absolute and super heavyweight champion. She, intrepid adventurer who, that Sunday morning, broke her mother’s grip, slipped past the fencing and dashed across the mats reveling in freedom, in search of father Paiva who was warming up to debut against Rodrigo Comprido, in the super heavyweight black belt master division. At the biggest Jiu-Jitsu championship of all times, no one was left out.
The trajectory of Braga Neto (Gordo JJ), from the warm-up line to his ultimate glory, was not exactly a walk in the park. There were tense moments, like the nine long minutes he panted over the powerful guard of Rômulo Barral, trying to break the Gracie Barra star’s grip – his right hand practically “sewn” to Neto’s sleeve, the sole of his foot firmly planted in his bicep, looking for a sweep that never came.
“Check out Barral’s grip! How doesn’t he get tired?” a black belt referee said in awe during the first absolute semifinal, held the afternoon of Saturday, March 28.
Like a locomotive, Neto kept pushing for the pass, wheezing and getting irritated all at once. “Folks were shouting that I’d gassed. I had a cold, sheesh! That’s why I was breathing through my mouth,” the winner would say, sniffling the whole time.
Rômulo kicked off the match landing a sweep right away, which could have given him an advantage. Neto defended well, not letting him conclude a single-leg. Nearly nine minutes later, the Roberto Gordo student forced through a more convincing sweep and took the win, by referee’s decision.
“I had run out of strength, I couldn’t sweep while Neto blitzkrieged me at the end and prevailed. Not a lot happened, but it was enough to impress the referee, he deserved it. It was 51% to 49% in his favor,” Rômulo commented, finally recovered from a shoulder injury, but with bursitis of the knee that kept him out of training a few weeks. “About my grip, I’ve had years of climbing the rope at the gym and doing pull-ups using my gi, there’s no mystery to it,” he smiled.
At the other end of the bracket, Rubens Charles “Cobrinha” Maciel enchanted the gymnasium by submitting Abmar Barbosa (Drysdale JJ) and sweeping Rafael Lovato Jr. However, in the semifinal against Pernambuco’s Otávio Sousa, he seemed to have forgotten every grandparent’s words of caution at the amusement park: “Hold on tight!”
On getting his hand slapped to relinquish a grip he had on the opening of the pant leg, pointed out by referee Augusto Tanquinho, the Paulista thought timeout had been called, became distracted and cleared the way for Otávio to get in a sweep, rallying back in the final seconds. With a place in the final, the Zé Radiola student, who had been a standout at last year’s Pan, proved his idea of getting stronger, and moving up from middleweight to medium heavyweight, may have been the right choice.
Alliance’s commander-in-chief while Romero Jacaré recovers from illness in Atlanta, Fabio Gurgel hissed about the refereeing for Cobrinha’s defeat, but a short while later, recomposed, he returned to the sunny semblance he maintained over the three days of the Pan 2009. Along with brothers Rickson and Royler Gracie, he was one of the champions of importunity at the event.
I made some mistakes that are going to help me to become a better fighter. When I got to the back and couldn’t finish, that broke my spirit” Kron Gracie
Rickson: “It doesn’t make sense to be sad”
GRACIEMAG.com’s coverage of the event also held on tight to readers’ attention, thanks to the revolutionary Twitter tool, allowing spectators in Brazil and the world over to keep up with the action at the Pan 2009 in real time. Among those reading along, there was Mrs. Miriam, who found out about her son Braga Neto’s conquest as soon as it occurred Sunday night.
Whether or not you were there, virtually or in person, click here to return to the Pan whenever you want.
Results by academy
1- Gracie Barra
2- Gracie Humaita
Master & Senior:
1- Gracie Humaita
2- Carlson Gracie Team
3- Gracie Barra
Feminino / Female:
1- Gracie Barra
2- Gracie Humaita
3- Westside BJJ
Juvenil / Juvenile:
1- Gracie Humaitá
2- Team Mica
3- Península BJJ
Iniciante / Novice:
1- Carlson Gracie Team
2- Gracie Barra
3- Gigante BJJ