Before the move, 11 editions took place in Rio de Janeiro, making the count almost even between Brazil and America.
Unfortunately for non-Brazilian black belts, the relocation to California did not mean more gold medals in the male division.
From 1996 to 2006, only two USA-born competitors made to the top of the podium; BJ Penn (2000) and Robert Drysdale (2005).
Since 2007, only Rafael Lovato Jr. (2007) was able to win a division.
Even so, each year, a stronger team of black belts not born in Brazil gets closer to that gold medal.
In 2015, once again, the roster is incredibly rich and full of talents completely capable of nabbing one of the ten gold medals in the male black belt division.
We have highlighted some of them here.
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Training since he was 10, Gianni is more than ready for his first world title as a black belt. Competing in the featherweight division, he’ll have to have the performance of a lifetime to overcome some pretty high hurdles. Rafael Mendes will probably be on his side of the bracket, once his teammate Rubens Cobrinha has the preference on the other side. Even so, the titles at the Pan and the WPJJC gave an extra boost of confidence to an already hard-working Grippo.
The lightweight from Atos JJ has a life-long goal of becoming a black belt world champion. He accomplished that in the No-Gi Worlds in 2013, but the big one is still to come. The begining of the 2015 season for JT has been perfect so far, with gold medals both at the European (middleweight) and Pan (lightweight). For the Worlds, he will most probably be at lightweight and have to battle with old foes Michael Langhi, Lucas Lepri, Roberto Satoshi, not to mention a bunch of talented newcomers.
In the medium-heavy division, Keenan will have the company of teammate Guto Campos and try to repeat the same outcome of this year’s Pan. Of course, we all know that the Worlds is whole different ball game, but Keenan has already proved he has what it takes to make it to the top. Romulo Barral and Murilo Santana are some of the obstacles in Keenan’s way towards gold.
Spriggs arrived at the black belt division after making great damage as a brown belt. He immediately started to create trouble for the more experienced black belts in the heavyweight division. Although he’s still young, Tim can and will probably try his hardest to turn his debut at the Worlds’ black belt division a golden one. Felipe Pena, Lucas Leite, Andre Galvão, among others will be there to make things as difficult as they can be for Spriggs.
The Dane waged two full out wars with Marcus Buchecha recently in Abu Dhabi, at the WPJJC. He’s still unable to win, but Buchecha himself said that Trans is an improved competitor every time they face each other. Last year, Trans managed a early guard pass on Buchecha, but could not resist for the remainder of the match and ended up being choked from the back.
What about you, reader, do you have a guess of who is capable of breaking the Brazilian domination in the male black belt division?