Meet Marcelo Garcia’s first world champion student, a 17-year-old brown belt

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Dominyka stands with professor Marcelo Garcia and teammates after winning her third world title. Photo: Erin Herle

Marcelo Garcia has owned his academy since 2009 when he planted himself in New York City. Many people have come to train with him but so far his highest ranked student, who started with him from the very beginning, is a purple belt. Even so, Marcelo gains students and takes them under his wing and today, he has three black belts that were promoted directly under him: Zeljko Drinovac, Josh Watzkin, Alex Meadows.

But the first world champion student under Marcelo is a female who came to him from New Jersey when she was 14, a green belt, and already a blue belt adult world champion. Dominyka Obelenyte, a transplant from Lithuania, moved to the states at the age of six and three years later began training Jiu-Jitsu at a small gym in Fair Lawn, NJ.

Competing at the 2010 World Championship as a blue belt. Photo: Paramount Fitness

After winning the 2010 World Championship at blue belt even though she was technically still a child, she began training under Marcelo Garcia with the aid of her dad to drive her the hour trek down the Jersey Turnpike, through the Lincoln Tunnel and into the Big Apple four times a week. It took only a month to officially earn a blue belt under Marcelo and by December of the same year she was promoted to purple belt at the age of 15.

Six months later Dominyka earned the title of purple belt female adult open weight champion and in effect also became Marcelo’s first student to win a world title. Placing second in her middleweight division, she avenged her loss in the final by defeating the same opponent in the final of the open weight. At fifteen, she became the youngest purple belt world champion. “One of my opponents was twenty-eight, and when I told her I was fifteen, she and her coaches all burst out laughing because they couldn’t believe how young I was,” she revealed.

Dominyka celebrates her Pan Am open weight title. Photo: Erin Herle

No one will ever replace Dominyka as the youngest since the start of the 2012 year brought more strict rules to IBJJF tournaments. Competitors under the age of 18 were now forced to remain in the juvenile division until the year of their eighteenth birthday. This left Dominyka out of the 2012 Worlds because she was only 16 and therefore had no opponents as purple belts, especially female middleweights, are rarely younger than 18. But as we all know, positivity is a must and through this she was able to train for another year and win the absolute once again in the 2013 Pan American Championship as a purple belt adult, now 17 and eligible. A tough fight in the middleweight division against fellow Alliance member Monique Elias ended in a silver medal however the open weight was hers after defeating Monique by points.

Taking the back at the 2013 World Championship in the final. Photo: Erin Herle

In what was a surprise to Dominyka, Marcelo granted her a brown belt shortly after the tournament and it gave her the opportunity to test her skills at a new belt for the upcoming World Championship. Registered as a heavier weight class, she moved up her registration from purple to brown, middle to medium-heavy. After two fights in her division, she became the 2013 brown belt female adult medium-heavy world champion and a three-time world champion.

Next week Dominyka has her high school graduation ceremony where she will receive her diploma with an overall grade point average of 4.2. In a couple months her schedule and even place of residence will change but it won’t affect her ability to keep training at Marcelo’s: “I will be attending Columbia University, this coming fall which makes me really happy, not only because it is my dream school, but because it is located a short, twenty minute subway ride away from Marcelo’s school. I believe my biggest challenge next year will be to coordinate studying and training and also including sleep somewhere in my daily routine. Wish me luck on that!”

To keep up with GMA Marcelo Garcia Academy and the traction their students have been making on the competition scene you can visit


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