Keenan Cornelius promoted to black belt

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Tom Callos, Keenan Cornelius, Andre Galvão

Tom Callos, Keenan Cornelius and André Galvão

The moment many people in the Jiu-Jitsu community were waiting for finally happened this Saturday, Sept. 14.

Phenomenon Keenan Cornelius was promoted to the rank of black belt by his Professor and GMA member, André Galvão, during the academy’s 3rd anniversary celebration.

Keenan’s father, Tom Callos, was present at the ceremony and wrote on Facebook about Keenan’s achievement: “Thanks to Professor Andre Galvao for allowing me to participate in giving my son, Keenan Cornelius his 1st dan black belt today. We traveled down to San Diego and surprised Keen. Now both my boys are black belts. Thank you martial arts, thank you Jiu-Jitsu, thank you to his coach, coaches, and to mine.”

André posted the news on his instagram account with the comment: “My new black belt Keenan Cornelius. Congrats Keenan. God bless your new journey.”

Galvão also talked to GRACIEMAG about Keenan’s reaction to the new belt: “He was so surprised and very emotional, also because of his father presence there. He had no idea that that was going to happen,” told Galvão. 

Watch the video of Keenan’s promotion:

And here’s Keenan speech after becoming a black belt:

The Professor also had some nice words about his new black belt: “For sure it was the right moment. In fact, I think I waited a bit too long. He has nothing else to prove as a brown belt as he has beat everybody. Now, it’s time to let him take his game to the black belt. I’m sure he’s gonna beat a lot of people there. Keenan is an amazing fighter and I believe he’s gonna go after his dreams with a lot of hard work and achieve all of them for sure.”

Keenan started to draw some attention to himself in the Jiu-Jitsu community still as a purple belt, in 2012, when he completed the Jiu-Jitsu grand slam, by winning his weight division and the open class in the four most prestigious IBJJF events: European Open, Brazilian Nationals, Pan and Worlds.

He was then still a member of the Lloyd Irvin Academy and got his brown belt from Lloyd after the 2012 Worlds, in June.

He moved to Atos JJ San Diego last march, after leaving Team Lloyd Irvin alongside many of his teammates.

Even before becoming a black-belt, Keenan had some experience with competing against them.

At the Copa Pódio Heavyweight Grand Prix, in January, Keenan faced Leonardo Nogueira, Xande Ribeiro, Alexandro Ceconi and Rodolfo Vieira.

He came out of that with a 1-3 record.

In the interview he gave to GRACIEMAG as part of the cover story for issue #195, Keenan talked about the experience of competing against the best in the sport: “Copa Pódio is the biggest tournament I have ever attended until now. It was an intense experience because I was facing guys I saw compete in the black belt for a long time. I fought with Xande Ribeiro, who has more titles than anyone but Roger Gracie, I think. And there was also Rodolfo Vieira, a monster, Léo Nogueira, who lost the absolute in 2012. It was great for me to see what is the highest level of competition today. I realized that I still have a long road ahead, but it was also great to see that we are all human. The thing is just how much we’re training every day and also gaining competition experience.”

How do you, reader, think Keenan will do at black belt? Does he come to compete for the absolute gold with Rodolfo and Buchecha?

See a quick photo gallery of the graduation ceremony.

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Photos: Andre Galvão Personal Archives

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