IBJJF honors hall of famers; Roger announces return to competitions

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Jiu-Jitsu selfie

Jiu-Jitsu selfie

For one evening, some of the biggest stars both from the past and the present of Jiu-Jitsu switched the gis for suits or sport jackets.

The Hilton Hotel in Long Beach welcomed the first IBJJF Hall of Fame awards.

The ceremony also featured the best competitors of 2013.

The winners present that took home a commemorative plaque were:

Female: Michelle Nicolini (3rd), Beatriz Mesquita (5th), Mackenzie Dern (7th), Fernanda Mazzelli (8th), Luzia Fernandes (9th).

Male: Marcus Buchecha (1st), Rodolfo Vieira (3rd), Otavio Sousa (6th), Victor Oliveira (7th), Romulo Barral (9th).

The highlight of the night was the induction of the first members of the Jiu-Jitsu Hall of Fame.

Michelle Nicolini was the first one to be called out to the podium to receive her plaque.

Five times world champion as a black belt, Nicolini saluted the IBJJF for the initiative: “It’s great to have this kind of recognition.”

Leticia Ribeiro, seven times world champion as a black belt, reminded the room of how it all began: “In the first Worlds with the female presence, in 1998, there were only two weigh divisions and all belts competed together. Today, we can’t even name all the great athletes competing because they are so many. It’s nice to know that I was a part in all that”.

Also a seven times world champion, Hannette Staack thanked the honoring and also looked back: “When I first started training, I was the only girl there. I wanted to learn to defend myself. Now I’m a teacher, athlete and business owner. Thanks for all of those who believed in me and helped me”.

Four times world champion, Rubens Charles “Cobrinha” was the first male hall of farmer to be called. He thanked his teammates and talked about his past: “When I started, people said that I was to old to have success, so I set as a goal to prove them wrong. I think I did.”

Also a four times world champion, Romulo Barral is now a hall of famer too. He thanked his wife and his professors for helping him getting to that point in his career.

Rodolfo Vieira, three times heavyweight world champion and one time open class champion, also was inducted to the Jiu-Jitsu Hall of Fame. “There’s only one thing that makes more nervous than competing, it’s public speaking. When I started, I never once thought of being side by side with guys like Roger, Xande or Saulo.”

Fabio Gurgel, four times world champion, was the next one to be inducted. He shared the accomplishment with his team: “I got my black belt when I was 19 and the first world championship came when I was 26. Still I managed to win it four times to be in the hall of fame. This title I divide with all my Alliance teammates.”

Marcus Buchecha, two times ultra-heavyweight champion and two times open class champion, received his plaque next. He also spoke of how he felt to be there: “When I started training, I remember seeing Roger on the covers of the magazines. Tonight, when I got here, my mom asked to take a picture with Roger. I want to thank my parents and also my professors, mainly Leo Vieira and Rodrigo Cavaca.”

Five times world champion, Saulo Ribeiro gave the lengthiest speech, thanking his family and taking the audience to a trip in time: “Father, I hope I was able to be at least half of what you are. When I started, I was a judo guy and Jiu-Jitsu was hard, but I fell for it quickly. We have to remember brothers Helio and Carlos, who started it all. I was embraced by the gracie family, specially Royler. I remember seeing Carlos Gracie Jr’s living room crowded with people drawing brackets. I knew that there was a guy who loved Jiu-Jitsu and would do a lot to help it develop.”

Bruno Malfacine, five times roosterweight champion, paid tribute to his team: “Thanks to Alliance for believing in me. This accomplishment is not only mine, but of all my teammates.”

Saulo’s brother, Xande Ribeiro was next. A four times champion in his weight division and two times open class champion, Xande first remembered his mother, who recently passed away: “She always supported us.”

Xande then talked about his journey in Jiu-Jitsu: “I want to thank my family, my masters and also all my opponents. I always say that whenever I compete against someone, I take something of their strength and make it my own.”

Roger Gracie, seven times world champion in his weight division and three times open class champion was the last one to be called. The Gracie talked about whatthe award meant to him. “Everything changed for me as a teenager, when I went to spend one summer with my cousin Rilion. I was kind of out of shape and he made me train and run on the beach. When I went back to Rio, I already saw Jiu-Jitsu differently. I used to say to myself that I was gonna be the best fighter and I believed in that. The first competitions I entered, I lost. But then I started winning and I knew I could always be a little better.”

Roger ended his speech with some good news about his future: “What I love the most is train and compete with the gi and I am going back to doing that. I almost entered the 2014 Worlds. I’m not done quite yet!”

To GRACIEMAG, Roger confirmed that he should comeback to competing before the 2015 Worlds: “I don’t want to wait a whole year. I want to go back before that.”

Other than the Hall of Fame inductions, the IBJJF also awarded the best teams of 2013.

The results were:

1st – Gracie Barra

2nd – Alliance

3rd – Nova União

4th – Checkmat

5th – Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu

On top of that, Alliance won the outstanding performance award for having won the adult male division of the Worlds for the last six years.

Here’s a photo gallery of the evening.


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