The final of Italy’s BJJ Professional Cup absolute division didn’t end the way everyone had expected it would. The argument between the two finalists, Bernardo Faria and Rômulo Barral, struck up when the Gracie Barra representative sunk a foot lock that then evolved into a knee lock. Bernardo complained to the referee that the move was illegal and Rômulo, who had already been warned about grabbing the inside of the pant leg, took offense to his opponent’s attitude. The match continued, and Bernardo again expressed grievances, which Barral interpreted as the fighter verbally giving up. The black belt let go of the hold – which was not in fact illegal, as the referees for the match later confirmed. However, the referee had not stepped in to interrupt the match, nor had Bernardo signalled that he had given up, despite the complaints he voiced. Rômulo refused to carry on fighting unless he would be allowed to start up with the hold again in place. Bernardo thus saw his arm raised as the winner of the absolute division.
Barral contacted GRACIEMAG.com requesting to make public his opinion. Bernardo too had remarked on his impression of the events. To round things out, we also spoke with the central referee in the match, IBJJF referee Alvaro Bobadilla. Check it out:
“The hold really was locked in, but I let go out of anger because he was complaining that the move was illegal. I’m positive the move was hurting him, as it’s a really strong position. I understood him to have verbally submitted when I got distracted at that moment in the match. I’d have continued fighting if they’d let me go back to that position; I don’t feel it would have been right to stand us up again and even take a warning. I don’t regret not having gone back. What I regret is having let go of the hold.
“For sure Bernardo had a great championship; kudos to him. I feel he was out of line pushing me, but it happens, right? He could have been disqualified for that – Samuel Braga was disqualified and suspended for six months after pushing Guilherme Mendes afther their match at the 2009 Worlds… But I do feel he deserves credit for the championship. After all, we both were wrong; it wasn’t just me who was out of line. Bernardo is to be congratulated; he’s a great athlete with plenty of grit and who I admire a great deal. But I am certain that if we’d continued with that hold in place the outcome would have been different.
“I’d like to ask the forgiveness of Bernardo, the fans, spectators, and the organizers of the event, for the outcome of the match. Bernardo and I are respected athletes and we were out of line at that moment. We train a lot and give our lives for first place, without even thinking about prizes or money.”
“Shoot, I see fighters complain to referees in lots of matches; it comes with the territory. In this case it was up to the referee to issue a penalty. I really was feeling it in my knee, but the ref is the one to say if it was valid or not. But Rômulo alleged that I had been submitted, when I was just complaining about the position.
“I really was out of order when he let go of the hold; I pushed him and said, ‘Dude, get over it, let’s fight.’ I really regret having done that. I like Rômulo a lot, he’s always been a role model to me in Jiu-Jitsu.
“I’ve already spoken with him and all’s good. I like him a lot and thank God we settled our differences.”
“I would have penalized Bernardo for complaining. In fact, he’d already been penalized once for complaining. But Rômulo, on two occasions, acted prematurely. He should not have let go of the position, because at no point had he been advised that the move was illegal. Either he would have gotten the tapout or Bernardo would be penalized for complaining needlessly. They had an argument, but I did not interpret Bernardo to have aggressed upon him. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m not the one who makes the final decision, as there are three arbiters overseeing the match, and Barral said, on several occasions, that he didn’t want to go on fighting. The thing is that nowhere in the IBJJF rule book does it say you can let go of a hold and then return to the same position.”