The UCI Bren Center was alive with expectation as the 2010 Pan took place across four beautiful Southern California days. Gracie Barra had competitors in every category, but a few athletes stood out in the crowd.
In the Juvenile heavyweight division, Magid Hage took home gold and may have created a new Jiu-Jitsu move in the process, “In one of my fights I held my opponent’s collar to pull him in tight so I could pass his guard without leaving space,” Hage says, “He faced me, so I went around the other side, still holding his collar. I accidentally choked him out with a sort of loop choke.” Hage says he doesn’t know what he did, “I’ve tried to see it in my head, but it doesn’t work, so I need to look at the video and figure it out.”
Hage’s final match was with Nisar Loynab from Ribeiro JJ. Hage says at one point Loynab got on his knees and tried to single-leg him, so he stood up, took him down again and pulled guard. “I looked at the time and there was like 7 seconds left in the match,” Hage says, “I knew I’d won, so I threw up a peace sign to my dad and then got back in the fight.”
What happened next created drama on and off the mats, “The clock was at 5 1/2 minutes and the fight was still going,” Hage says, “The kid was in my guard and I’m saying to the ref, ‘it’s a 5 minute fight. You gonna go to the table?’ I look over and everyone’s screaming at the scorekeeper.” They realized they’d set the time for 6-minutes and stopped the fight.
Hage walked off the mats, and tried to thank Loynab’s coach, Saulo Ribeiro, but didn’t get very far, “He started yelling at me! He didn’t like me throwing the peace sign while I’m fighting. He said I was showing off. He was mad! I apologized. He’s an intimidating guy; I’m not gonna lie.” But nothing could dampen Hage’s spirit, “It was a great day. GB won 2nd for Juvenile and Master Carlos gave me the trophy! I can’t believe I got a trophy!”
There was a lot of hype around GB’s middleweight brown belt Lucas Rocha. His uncle is the famed Ze Radiola. He grew up training with Braulio and Victor Estima, and Otavio Sousa. He’s also won the Worlds in every belt he’s ever had. This was his first major competition as a brown belt, and everyone wanted to see how well he’d do. Rocha did not disappoint.
In Rocha’s third match, his opponent took him by surprise, “He jumped to my back and got a tight choke. I almost went to sleep. I had to defend my neck.” Rocha said he looked over and saw his GB teammates looking at him with their mouths hanging open, “It was funny! I knew then that I had to escape and get into a better position. I did, and ended up winning.”
Rocha says he “loved” his semifinal match against Ryan Beauregard, the 2009 Worlds brown belt champion, “I felt his energy. I sensed what he was thinking and feeling, so I knew what he was going to do. That’s when I knew I was going to win.” Rocha says his goal was to hold him down, work to pass his guard, and control the match. Rocha says, “I succeeded.”
Rocha’s final was with Clark Gracie, “It went fast,” Rocha says, “I looked at the time and there were 30 seconds left, and it was tied 0-0. I thought, ‘don’t put the decision in the ref’s hands.’ I opened my guard and at the same time he got off balance. I swept him and got on top to hold him. I stretched my arms out. He got the omoplata, but I jumped over him twice and escaped with 2 seconds left. It was perfect.”
Rocha won gold in his weight class and then won silver in the Open Class, losing to Zack Maxwell of Gracie Humaita, who submitted him with a two-collar choke, “He got me. It was hard to take and I’m not happy, but he was fantastic in this tournament.”
Rocha says the Pan was a test for him, “I wanted to check out the competitors’ games, so I’ll know what I’m dealing with at the Worlds. I accomplished my goals.”
When it comes to BJJ, Otavio Sousa is a household name. He’s a highly respected medium heavy GB black belt and an integral part of the GB 2010 Competition Team. Like Rocha, Sousa grew up training under Ze Radiola and his elite team of Jiu-Jitsu fighters. His skills are impeccable and his strength is intimidating. Sousa was at the Pan to defend his title.
In the open class Sousa won his first match with a front choke, but lost his second to Marcel Fortuna, “He’s a lot bigger than me,” Sousa says, “I made mistakes and he won. I was a little disappointed, but I knew I’d do better the next day. Losing motivated me to fight harder.”
In his weight division, Sousa ruled the mats. He submitted his first opponent and won by points in his second. In the semifinal, Sousa says he felt very focused and confident, “I swept my opponent and passed his guard. I got a wrist lock from side mount control and submitted him.”
Sousa says after that semifinal, he went back home to get ready to defend his title in his final match with Andre de Freitas. This match proved to be the most exciting of all, “I passed his guard twice and mounted him. I didn’t stop and neither did he. We both fought really hard. It was a great fight. After it was over, I was so happy I’d won. I trained so hard for this.”
Sousa says it’s his dream to be a world champion black belt, “I’ve won the Worlds in all other belts, so I really want to win as a black belt now. I’ve come in 3rd twice, so I’m hoping this is going to be my year.”
GB’s masters heavyweight Fabio Leopoldo has been very busy these days. He owns two Jiu-Jitsu schools, GB Ventura and GB Thousand Oaks, and still found time to repeatedly drive to GB America to train and prepare for the 2010 Pan, “I felt really in shape. I was able to train with the best – Kayron, Braulio, Romulo, Otavio. I felt confident.”
Leopoldo fought Roberto Strechert in his first match, “I’ve fought him 8 times before. I submitted him 6 and won by points twice. I was a little worried thinking I might finally lose!” Leopoldo says it wasn’t an easy fight, but he won. After the fight, Sretchert went to him and said, “When I saw you in the brackets I said, ‘oh man, not again!’ It was funny. He’s a good guy.”
In the final, Leopoldo fought Roberto Godoi. These two have history. They both hail from Sao Paulo, but Godoi’s BJJ academy is a huge rival of Leopoldo’s, “There’s a problem between the academies, but not between us. He’s a nice guy. We’ve fought twice before. I won one, and he won one. It’s a big thing in Brazil – school against school. When I saw him in the brackets I thought, ‘Now I’m gonna win! It’s my year.’ I knew it was going to be a really tough fight, but I trained hard with the guys from GB.”
Leopoldo says he knew Godoi had a really good, smooth pass and that his standup was good, too, “He took me down and scored 2 points. He made his base, I pushed him, and scored 2 points. The ref took away one advantage point because he held my pants illegally. He was told twice.” Time ran out and Leopoldo celebrated his win with a vengeance, “I was very excited! A lot of my students were there and I knew my friends in Brazil were going crazy! I was so happy.”
Leopoldo says his main focus is on his students and his schools, so he may not compete again for a while, “Everyone’s so happy for me. It makes me want to fight in all the Pans! Leopoldo says he wishes Ryan Gracie could share in his win, “He opened all the doors for me. He taught me all my life lessons on and off the mats. He recently passed away and I miss him a lot.”
And so another door closes on the 2010 Pan, but in two short months, another one will open to the Worlds…