Pan 20 years: 1995, the championship lost in time

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Team Brazil ready to embark to the 1995 Pan

Team Brazil ready to embark to the 1995 Pan. Pictures: Rodrigo Clark’s archives

We found only one video of it on You Tube.

It’s almost impossible to find pictures of the event as well.

The final results are not even posted either on the IBJJF or the CBJJ webpages.

Even so, it did happen.

On June 1995, the first Pan Jiu-Jitsu championship took place in Irvine, California.

The Brazilian athletes all flew together from Rio to compete.

Competitors and his medals.

Competitors and his medals.

Among them, people like Roberto “Gordo” Correa, Alexandre Soca, Rodrigo Clark, Marcelo Tetel, Rommel Cardoso, Jose Henrique Leão Teixeira, Fernando Yamasaki, Vinicius Draculino, and many others.

GRACIEMAG’s Vice-President Luca Atalla, then a 21-year-old competitor/journalist, also was there and managed to get a silver medal and report the event for the Jornal Gracie, GRACIEMAG’s embryo.

“I had five matches in the blue belt lightweight and ended up with the second place,” remembers Luca.

Zé Beleza refereeing in 1995

Zé Beleza refereeing in 1995

Now a red and black belt, Leão Teixeira, aka Zé Beleza, worked as a referee in the first Pan. He tells us a little bit about the adventure of organizing a championship in the ’90’s.

“It was a big test for us. Carlos Gracie Jr (CBJJ President) had the plan of doing a championship outside Brazil, once he felt Jiu-Jitsu needed to grow and that would only happen with a tournament in the USA. The idea was to have a Brazil vs. USA matches. The first challenge was to get visas to all the athletes, more than 40. We managed to have a meeting with the American Consul in Rio, Mr Olsen, if I’m not mistaken. We travelled with a huge group, many of which on their first international trip. We were welcomed by Joe Moreira in Irvine and the mood in the hotel was of complete euphoria. Everyone wanted to compete so much that the hotel manager reserved a room for the guys to train. It was great to see guys from all different academies rolling together. The day of the event begun with the Brazilian anthem playing and all athletes forming on the mat. I remember one great fight between Joe Moreira’s student Bob Bass and Marcio Feitosa, at brown belt. It was a battle and Marcinho was defeated for the first time since he was a yellow belt. In the end, it was an event that many didn’t believe that we would be able to put together. We did everything, from setting the mats to refereeing. When we got back to Brazil we had the feeling of contributing with the growth of the sport.”

The group after roll at Joe Moreira's academy

The group after roll at Joe Moreira’s academy

Rodrigo Clark, today owner of Gracie Barra Santa Barbara, also recollects on the championship.

“The Pan 95 was a turning point in my life, on and off the mats. It was not only my first competition outside Brazil but also the first time I competed as an “adult”. I was only 17 back then and had only competed as a juvenile. It was an amazing experience to be able to compete with the big names of the sport. The actual trip to the USA was important to the development of Jiu-Jitsu. Until then, there was huge barrier dividing the academies in Brazil. After that championship, it started to change. During the trip, we had the chance to get to know our “enemies”, which created a lot of respected among us. I remember the moment of boarding to the US, when we hardly knew each other and also the moment we came back, when new friendships were already formed. I’m sure that everyone that took part in that trip has a lot of great memories of those days of glory, fighting and fun.”
Rodrigo Clark and the rest o the team waiting to fly to the USA

Rodrigo Clark and the rest of the team waiting to fly to the USA

Alexandre Soca, now leader of Soca BJJ in New York, was also in that group that travelled from Rio to compete in the USA. He tells us what he remembers of the first Pan.

“I believe it was my first international trip to compete. We had a trial in Rio to decide who was going and I won the right to compete representing Brazil. Sadly, when we got to California, Fernando Yamasaki decided not to compete in my division and instead fight my teammate Vinicius Draculino in the light-featherweight. I ended up with a medal without fighting. The event was cool, but there weren’t many competitors. The real good thing was to get a whole bunch of friends together from several generations and academies. I wish I had competed, but it was still nice to be there.” 

Watch the only video we found of the 1995 Pan, Gracie Barra’s Vinicius Draculino competing against Fernando Yamasaki.

Darculino tells us what he remembers from the match: “It was a historical event and it was a pleasure to take part in it. We didn’t have many black belts back then. In my division, the light-feather, there was only me so I fought Fernando Yamasaki. This fight became the turning point where I decided to take my career in Jiu-Jitsu seriously. I knew that with that championship the sport had been launched internationally.”

The 20th edition of the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship takes place next March 12-16, in Irvine, California.

If you got the taste of competing in one of the most important events in the gentle art calendar, go to and register now!

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Matt White at 3:23 pm

    I was there and saw the magical Bass fight. Honestly we only came to see him and he was flawless a great day for the sport for sure. It inspired me to train and become a student..

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