The Mendes brothers, Guilherme and Rafael, promoted yet another student to brown belt at the 2014 World Championship. This time, it was their student and a coach at GMA Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Rick Slomba.
He moved from Baltimore, MD and his real estate career to the academy in Costa Mesa, CA to train Jiu-Jitsu full-time in 2012. He was a purple belt until today, the second day of the Worlds where he fought six matches for the gold in the featherweight category and received his brown belt on the podium.
In 2010 Rick fought his first IBJJF tournament and third tournament ever in Chicago and he was a purple belt then as well. Since then he has competed in the purple belt divisions in the highest tournaments. In his fourth attempt at the worlds, he finally got his gold. In previous years he earned third place twice and even a third place at the Pans as well. So this title was well-deserved and came after a long time. He broke his third place spell.
The toughest match for Rick today was the final against Edwin Najmi of GMA Gracie Barra Northridge. “Edwin has beat me a bunch before and I finally beat him. The ankle locks hurt but I didn’t care today” says the 27-year-old. During his six matches, Rick had three submissions: one wrist lock, and two chokes from the back.
The brothers surprised him with the promotion on the podium. Rick says, “Even more than the gold, it’s been my dream to be promoted on the podium.”
When asked about his past performances and why he was often stopped before the finals, he said it goes all the way back to his childhood: “I could never hit the ball when I was up to bat in little league baseball. I could never handle it. I was always scared to fail.”
But not anymore. “I finally hit the baseball.”