GFTeam breakout Jonny “Big Boy” wins two world titles and new belt from his daddy

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João Marcelo Ribeiro

Jonny Big Boy won two worlds title in a row


João Marcelo, the 19-year-old also known as “Jonny Big Boy,” is one of the newest promise in competitive BJJ. The young GFTeam athlete achieved this status with his recent performances at the World Pro and IBJJF Worlds, in Abu Dhabi and California, respectively, in the previous season.

Last December, João managed to win the World Pro and World Championship back to back, with nine consecutive matches won—five in the former and four in the latter.

“I had some trouble getting used to the time zone in Abu Dhabi. I also had a very long flight each way. I believe my good performance was due to the rest I got; I planned very thoroughly for the World Pro. People ask me about fighting under different rules between two tournaments, and I usually say that, because of my always forward-facing game, I didn’t change anything. I just followed my planning consisting of seeking the finish and scoring as much as possible,” João, who got four submissions out of nine fights, said in a recent interview.

After winning two world-level titles, João was made a brown belt by the hands of his dad, Marcelo, who’s been by his side on the mat since João was three.

“Being promoted by my dad is a big deal; he supports all my decisions, and I felt happy with Jiu-Jitsu. I have a lot of confidence in what he tells me, what he tells me to do, and our results are coming. I really like competing, because my dad used to take me to compete from a very young age; I don’t feel pressured. I like testing my game and fighting without pressure. Most of the time, I don’t think about the medal; I just think about fighting well! I’m determined to conquer my space in this new belt. I’m very happy with everything and I believe it will be reflected in my next competitions. I expect excellent results,” he said.

As well as the intense routine between classes at the gym and his competition training, João sets some time aside to go to Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. “I have a timetable that’s very well divided and well organized. When I go to school, I take my mind off jiu-jitsu and, obviously, I also think about the future. Having another profession is very important!” he said.

João says he’s going to prioritize the main IBJJF tournaments this season. Fighting at the Brazilian Nationals is also among his goals.

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