I feel that is important to reflect upon where we started and how far we have come. Why? Because maintaining perspective is the best thing we can do when assessing the veracity of how far Jiu-Jitsu has come in a short time. If you would have told me in January that we would have something like the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo, Metamoris Pro, the IBJJF Pro League, Buchecha overtaking Rodolfo Vieira’s mantle as the public consensus of pound for pound best and the rise of American Jiu-Jitsu in one year I would have scoffed at the idea. That is a lot of things man, it seems like that is a lifetime worth of breakthroughs and achievements.
Let’s keep in mind, the only real avenue where high level guys could make money before this year, was through the Abu-Dhabi World Pro and the ADCC. I am sure there were other tournaments that offered small prizes but nothing on such a grand stage as we saw with the Metamoris Pro, Jiu-Jitsu Expo or perhaps what we will see in the coming month with the IBJJF Pro League.
It is quite crazy when you think about it. I mean honestly there was a World Expo just on Jiu-Jitsu! How surreal is that? There was an online pay-per view in an actual sporting arena that showcased some of the best in our sport and they got PAID! For a niche sport that’s something to be proud of.
I remember when I talked to David Levy Booth from the Jiu-Jitsu Laboratory on my podcast about how guys made a living in Jiu-Jitsu and to say it was a somber part of the podcast would be an understatement. The seemingly helpless attitude we both had towards it left me questioning whether these guys would ever be able to get paid in the near future like they deserved to be. These tournaments provide hope for serious competitors who want to make a life out of just that: competing.
The other note that is essential to hit when looking back upon Jiu-Jitsu is how quickly the narrative can change in. When the year started, the question was who could stop Rodolfo Vieira? He was the second coming, the man to take Roger Gracies seat atop of the Jiu-Jitsu world.
Then comes Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, his year in Jiu-Jitsu has to rank in the pantheons of great years in Jiu-Jitsu. Defeating Rodolfo Vieira and almost submitting the great Roger Gracie at the Metamoris Pro. Not bad for a guy who is only 22 years old. B
Besides that, look how far Americans have come in Jiu-Jitsu. DJ Jackson who was plagued with injury becomes the first American Black Belt World Champion from Team Lloyd Irvin. We have JT Torres in the finals of the No-Gi World Championships and we have the utter domination of Keenan Cornelius. It’s something that many of talked about like Jacare Calvacanti, but Americans are catching up with the Brazilians and it seems inevitable that we will not only see one but multiple American black belt world champions.
As I reflect upon the 2012 year in Jiu-Jitsu, I feel what is prominent in my mind is how rapid and fast things can change. How guys can go from making nothing to having multiple cash prize tournaments. How the storylines that we started with can shift so dramatically and we get familiarized with the young and upcoming talent Jiu-Jitsu has to offer. The only thing I think we all can agree doesn’t change is the progress of the sport and its development towards becoming more professional and more pervasive around the world.