In search of new challenges, after having won a world title in 2019, Matheus Gabriel went up two weight divisions and started competing amongst the middleweights. At the No-Gi Pan, held in May in Texas, the black-belt from Checkmat won his first big no-gi title and, to boot, made his name stand out in a division featuring Hugo Marques (Ares BJJ), Felipinho Cesar (Unity) and Leonardo Silva (GFTeam) — three of the opponents he had to beat on his path to the gold medal.
In the final, he was faced with the extremely tough Hugo Marques and came out victorious by two points from a penalty, because as Matheus was trying to sweep, Hugo escaped to try to defend his position. It’s worth noting that this was among the matches most talked about online, and in a recent interview, the champion explained why.
“The final was a real battle; it was attack against attack,” Matheus said. “He tried to pass my guard, but fortunately I managed to sweep. I climbed the leg and he went outside, which ended up giving me points due to a penalty against him. He got angry, because he thought the ref shouldn’t have given me the points — but it’s the rule! They had posted and talked about this rule days before the event. Anyway, I won! But he didn’t show up at the podium; I thought there was a lack of professionalism from his part. I wouldn’t do that; it was ugly and it’s bad for the sport.”
Before the final, Matheus finished Michael Trasso via triangle and beat Leo Silva and Felipinho on points. Matheus proved, in practice, that the mass he had gained didn’t slow him down.
“I felt very good fighting at middleweight,” he said. “It was fun and at the same time challenging. Because of the fact that I moved up in weight, the BJJ media talked about it. I felt very good, I felt stronger, and I kept my speed. Fighting new opponents was challenging too, since I had been fighting as a featherweight for a long time. My differentiator in no-gi is to fight moving forward. My guard also helps me a lot. I have a good guard and know that without the gi, it’s very hard to get past the difficulty offered by the fight. I’m excited for my next challenges.”
This being only his second competition in no-gi, Matheus added: “I’m writing my story in the sport. I’m excited about the new possibilities and the visibility that fighting no-gi offers. I want to do superfights, compete in tourneys and show all my potential. Really excited!”
Matheus will be fighting again in June, when new competitions start getting announced.