Pan 20 Years: 1996, great duels for the record

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Rigan passes Roleta's guard

Rigan passes Roleta’s guard Photo: Rigan Machado Archives

Historians like to say that history is divided in before and after the written word.

The history of the Pan is exactly like that and 1996 is the first year when records were kept for the future.

Looking for the results at the IBJJF page, you can only imagine how good a championship Pan 1996 was.

There were amazing match ups between some of the toughest competitors of that time.

Even in the lower belts, we see names that later would leave their mark in Jiu-Jitsu history.

For instance, in the brown belt Robson Moura and Vitor Shaolin won their divisions, light-feather and feather.

Amal Easton, now leader of Easton BJJ, in Colorado, was a 26-year-old blue belt in 1996.


Graciemag’s report on the 1996 Pan

He told us what he remembers of that competition and the medium-heavy final with a Gracie.

“I scraped up enough money to get back to the states from Brasil to compete. The weigh ins took about 6 hours, and it was brutal. Then I waited since 8AM to go as they didn’t give times so I sat and tried to hear my name all day. My first fight was around noon and my last fight was at almost midnight with Rolles Gracie. I believe I submitted three fights before the finals. I thought they were going to do the finals the next day so I was walking out the door, I said good night to Carlinhos (Carlos Gracie Jr) and he asked if I wasn’t going to compete in the finals. So I put my gi on and fought. I had only eaten 4 power bars all day cause you never knew when you were going to go so I was afraid to eat all day. I remember three of my fights including Rolles. I believe he was like 17 or 18 and I had trained with him as I spent a little time in Florianopolis with Rillion Gracie. All the people I considered my coaches were in a spot where they pretty much had to cheer for him. Carlos Machado was the only one in my corner as I had started with a student of his and had trained a few times with him before I moved to Rio in 1995. I’ll never forget Carlos for that. It was a competitive match with him getting the advantage the whole time. I got stuck on bottom in half guard and he either passed or almost passed the whole time. I was happy I felt in the game the whole time, back then we were similar sizes, because now I get smashed by Rolles and we are friends.”

Blue Belt medium heavy podium: Amal, Rolles, Max Araujo

Blue Belt medium heavy podium: Amal, Rolles, Max Araujo  Photo: Rolles Gracie Archives

Marcio Feitosa, a recently promoted black belt in 1996 had the chance to have a personal revenge at the black belt lightweight division. In 1995, he was defeated by Joe Moreira’s student Bob Bass, his first defeat since he was a yellow belt. In 96, Marcinho got his way. He remembers of what hapenend in Los Angeles:

“The bracket was really tough. My match with Bass was in the early rounds and I got the better of him. After that, I competed against Renato Barreto in the final. It was a tough match as always. He is a guard player with great flexibility. In the end, all went well and I got first place”.

Another great duel that took place in Los Angeles, in 1996 was the black belt medum-heavy final between Roberto Roleta and Saulo Ribeiro.

It was the second of three memorable matches between the two. This time, Roleta played on top almost all the time and got the win by ref Joe Moreira’s decision.

But the big name of the event was Rigan Machado. Now the leader of a successful association of academies, with affiliated schools all over the world, Rigan Machado was only starting his life in the USA in 1996. He tells us how he managed to get to the top of the black belt absolute division and specially remembers his battle with Roleta..

“I wanted to go to Brazil to compete in the Worlds but I was in the middle of an immigration process, so I couldn’t leave the US. So Carlinhos (Carlos Gracie Jr) said I was not to worry because I would have some great names to fight against at the Pan. I was working so much I had only two weeks to train for the event, so I decided to fight with a lot of strategy. I remember the fight with Roleta really well. It was the guy I was most worried about. He was known for his dangerous guard and I knew that if you would let him make his grips in the spider guard you would be in trouble. At the same time, I saw that he had a gap in his guard that I could explore. I decided to mix some wrestling moves at the very beginning of the match so that’s what I did and managed to get to the side and secure the three points in the beginning. After that I played his mistakes to secure the victory. I like to compete like that, using more strategy than strength.”

After beating Roleta, Machado went on to defeat Eduardo “Jamelão” Conceição for the gold medal.

“Against Jamelão it was all about pressure. I used pressure to pass the guard and monut, but there was no time to get the finish.”

After all that, we’re sure you got the competition fever.

So don’t miss out and register now for the 2014 Pan, to be held March 12-16, in Irvine, California.

Go to and register now.

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