A white belt back from Iraq and the first 2011 world champions

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Matt Coppinger with Cyborg / Photos: Deb Blyth

As the white belts fought their matches with passion and fervor throughout day one of the Worlds, their coaches, friends and fans in the crowd lit up the arena with roars of delight and sorrow as some claimed victory and others, defeat. Matt Coppinger from The Avengers took gold in his roosterweight division, making Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu proud. Cyborg brought over 30 students out for the Worlds and says to expect to see many of them on the podium this weekend.

James Teele of Sparta JJ takes gold.

James Teele from Sparta Jiu-Jitsu in Gardena, California, won his middleweight division. He got his opponent in a shoulder lock and accidentally dislocated it. This was his first tournament ever, and now he’s a world champion. “It feels good,” he says, “I’ll definitely be back next year as a blue belt.”

Edward Vasquez with Rafael Ramos

Edward Vasquez of GB Carlsbad won his super heavy division, but the Worlds is no match for his regular job. He’s a Marine and just came back from his second tour in Iraq where he saw a lot of action. He feels like he has a mental edge over his opponents and has a completely different perspective on competition than most. “I don’t get nervous at these tournaments,” he says, “If you lose you lose. I’m not going to die.”

Hope Aiken of Alliance

In the women’s heavyweight division, Hope Aiken took gold for Alliance. She won all three of her matches by submission. This fire plug, who also fights MMA, received her blue belt on the podium and says she wants to continue to be a world champion in every belt, all the way to her black belt.

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