20 years ago, BJJ was a sport practiced by very small numbers outside Rio de Janeiro. I remember my first tournament, when I was a white belt and won only one fight, later closing the bracket with a guy that trained in the same gym as myself. At the time I questioned this tradition, but after years competing, it was only in the brown belt that I did it again, when I won 3 matches in the World’s tournament and did not fight the final was it would be against my friend Pedro Duarte. We prepared together for months and knew each other’s game, we actually helped each other a lot, and this would never be possible if we would have to fight each other in the competition.
Now the Gracie Magazine, official voice of the stablishment, comes up with a campaign attacking this procedure, as it says it affects the credibility of the competition and the TV transmission. I cal it BULLSHIT.
First of all, the official tournaments give no professional prize whatsoever, so how can you ask professionalism from the athletes if the federation acts as if the sport is amateur? How can you force an athlete to fight his best friend and someone he trains daily with for a medal? What will happen will be worse, people will pretend to fight each other, being it in the finals, semifinals or first match.
If successful, this measure would only create more rivalry between people training together, infecting the environment of the group.
Of course, the magazine cannot attack its owner, so they promote ideas to cover up the scandal that is the administration of BJJ internationally. Good luck with that, but people are not sleeping and they see how much profit is being kept off the sport by its unelected officials.
There are many subjects important to our sport, among them the need of have a list of all qualified instructors worldwide, but even this is going to be hard, given the number of unqualified people receiving black belts. I could go on for half an hour proposing debates on hot topics, but all those themes will never be debated by the official media, for obvious reasons. So they come up with smoke and mirrors, in a vain attempt to bring attention to whatever is done by the athletes, and whenever mentioning the federation, they do it very carefully (somehow it reminds me of the official comunist media from the defunct Soviet Union).
BJJ has a lot of unwritten rules and code of honour, and it makes perfect sense not to fight your friend in arms, after all this is not a sport you can learn by yourself, you need not only a good teacher but a great group to train with if you want to become a champion, so it is up to the team to decide if its members will fight each other or leave this decision to themselves.
Only when the federation starts giving money to the winners, they could require professionalism from them, because the fighters do not have to please any public, they are not paid to be there, they are competing for the challenge and the pleasure, so it is their decision of fighting each other or not, end of the day only one of them can grab the gold medal and the second must accept the silver, so what is the big deal? TV? They should transmit the semifinals then, or pay the athletes to fight each other.
As said earlier in this post, there are many more important things to be brought into discussion if the goal is to improve the sport. I read an open letter from Flavio Almeida, one of the head coaches of Gracie Barra, countering the proposal made by the official media. I have to say that I fully agree with Flavio’s views, his statement is very elucidating and express an opinion that I consider similar to my own. The focus should be elsewhere.
Another proposals face the absurdity. Felipe Costa suggests matches to define bronze medalists. This sounds ok at first, but then you look into Judo, Wrestling and Boxing in the Olympic Games and all of them have 2 bronze medalists, showing that his poposal is naive. In Judo there is an efficient system of repechage, making the fight for the bronze another challenge, with many athletes being given the chance to fight for the bronze and not only two. This of course could be easily implemented by the BJJ federations but I suspect that the time needed to make all this extra matches without profitting from it are not welcome by the officials. And simply putting the losers of the semifinals to fight each other for a third place instead of doing a proper olympic repechage sounds stupid and disconnected from reality.
Anyways, we should be debating more important issues but I suspect that this is exactly what the official media does not want us to do. Please take time to choose one or more options from the poll below!