Women take center stage at Arizona’s maiden Copa Bela all-girls event

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Competitors gathered on the mat for the commencement ceremony. Photos by Mannie Romero.

The year 2012 has been a historical one thus far for women’s Jiu-Jitsu. With the addition of a masters division and one all for the brown and black belts, it’s clear to see that the women’s movement in Jiu-Jitsu is growing faster and stronger with every event. Leading a strong campaign for Jiu-Jitsu among the fairer sex, purple belt Kristina Barlaan, along with GD Jiu-Jitsu Events and the AZSBJJF, promoted the maiden Copa Bela: All Female Jiu-Jitsu Tournament on April 21. Arizona’s inaugural girls-only competition proved to be an inspiring and empowering event for the many ladies in attendance.

The first-ever Copa Bela begins.

“Today we gathered 36 women on the mat to compete. There may be some people out there who think that this number is small, but this is only the beginning of something beautiful and much bigger. When the IBJJF promoted the first Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship, they didn’t even have 200 competitors and now there are close to 3,300. I’m focused on the future, and I beleive in steady progress. I want to give these women a well-organized event that follows the standards of the IBJJF. I’m not looking for 100 competitors right now. I’m looking to build the community over time, and when that happens, Copa Bela can gather hundreds of women,” stated the determined Barlaan.

Dias received Special Recognition for being the pioneer for women's Jiu-Jitsu in Arizona and being a role model for all women in the sport.

To commemorate the occasion, the 1st Copa Bela started with a Commencement Ceremony in which all the competitors gathered on the mat area to be addressed for their dedication and love of the gentle art. For many, it was an emotional moment, especially for Luciana Dias, who was given a Special Recognition Award for pioneering women’s Jiu-Jitsu in Arizona. Taken by surprise by the award, Luciana, affectionally called Luka, gave a motivational speech, all the while fighting back the tears of joy that come from being validated and honored by your peers, friends, family, students, and aspiring champions:

“You don’t have to be just the stay-at-home Mom that cooks, cleans, and watches the children. You can be more, and Jiu-Jitsu let’s you do that.”

Luka shares a tearful but happy embrace with step-daughter Mackenzie Dern.

It seeems that besides competing against an opponent, Copa Bela provided a number of women the opportunity to compete against and overcome the obstacles in their lives. For some, it would be their first time competing. For others, it would be their first time winning a match and becoming a champion:

“This tournament has been a dream come true. I had five matches today, and this is my first time ever winning a match, winning my weight division, and being in the finals of the absolute. To make it even more perfect is the fact that I also get to share the podium with my daughter!” exclaims blue belt and mother of five Seta Reupenny (Relson Gracie).

Mackenzie Dern and Sophia Drysdale before the toe-hold exchange, from which Mackenzie left the victor

The highlight of Copa Bela was the world class competition in the brown/black absolute division for a $1000 payout. In the first semifinal match-up, black belt Sophia Drysdale (Drysdale BJJ) faced young Brown belt Mackenzie Dern (Gracie Humaita), with Mackenzie securing her spot in the finals via toe hold. On the other side of the bracket, newly promoted black belt Tammy Griego (Gracie Barra NM) matched up against the smaller Tracey Goodell (Atos). Although the underdog in the face-off, Tracey earned her victory with an advantage over the heavyweight. The final match, between Mackenzie and Tracey, proved to be a technical battle, with each fighting for grips and dominant position. With an exchange of positions and submissions, Mackenzie was crowned the champion by racking up four advantage points.

Tammy Griego battling the aggressive guard of Tracey Goodell


Alicia Sandoval and Nana Hosokawa both won their weight (medium heavy and light feather) and the absolute in the purple and blue belt divisions, respectively. Their wins helped secure BJJ Revolution top spot on the podium.

Mackenzie takes home the gold, the big bucks and the goodie bag sponsored by FighterTech supplements.

Team Results:
1st BJJ Revolution
2nd Relson Gracie
3rd Nova Uniao

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