In the build up to the Abu Dhabi Combat Club's 2015 Submissions Wrestling World Championship, Bloody Elbow looks back on some of the most interesting moments in the promotions history. In this edition we look at rubber guard master Eddie Bravo's legendary run at ADCC 2003.
There was a time when Eddie Bravo was the most controversial man in grappling. Right now, Eddie Bravo is a passionate musician, regular member of Joe Rogan's widely popular "Fight Companion" podcast and the owner of a chain of highly successful no-gi grappling academies, but things weren't always the case. Going into 2003's ADCC tournament, Eddie Bravo was a brown belt with a very vocal opinion on how he felt the world of jiu-jitsu needed to evolve.
Sao Paulo, Brazil. May 17, 2003. Gustavo Dantas walks on to the mat of the Ibirapuera Gymnasium for the opening match of the 66kg bracket of the illustrious ADCC tournament. Dantas is a heavy favorite with the fans. The Brazilian was buoyed on by the support of his compatriots is expected to win - after all he is a black belt from the illustrious Nova Uniao academy and his opponent was a relatively inexperienced American brown belt - Eddie Bravo. Within minutes it was clear that Bravo was no normal brown belt. His skills were impeccable, his timing was flawless and he made light work of Dantas, submitting him with a tight Mata Leao.
Bravo, a student of Jean Jacques Machado, caused some eyebrows to rise with his performance against Dantas but what happened in his next match would define his legacy. In the space of ten minutes, Bravo would go from relative anonymity to jiu-jitsu legend.
It's been said that to become a legend you must first beat one. On that afternoon in Brazil, Bravo was pitted against one of the sports biggest legends, Royler Gracie. When it comes to submission grappling, few can live up to achievements of Royler Gracie. Coming into his match with Bravo, Royler was a 4-time world jiu-jitsu champion and a 3-time ADCC champion. The prospect of Eddie Bravo beating Royler Gracie was unthinkable. No one favored Bravo except for his best friend, UFC commentator, Joe Rogan, who was in Brazil showing his support.
The match started with a baby-faced Bravo butt scooting towards Royler, who visibly exuded confidence. The opening minutes were rather methodical. Royler looked comfortable until Bravo encountered his first piece of success, a sweep. At this point Royler began to become more frantic and impatient, and it would be his impatience that would be his eventual undoing. Once Royler regained top position it seemed like Bravo entered his element, immediately beginning to utilize his high guard and patented rubber guard game before cinching up the perfect triangle choke which forced Royler, the defending champion, to submit to a brown belt. With those few taps Bravo became an overnight success.
With that match Bravo's ADCC experience reached its pinnacle. In the next match Eddie Bravo would be beaten by eventual winner, Leo Vieira. Royler Gracie would go on to take the Bronze medal but it would Bravo that would take all the acclaim from ADCC 2003.
In the years immediately following ADCC 2003, students began to flock to Eddie Bravo's then newly-opened 10th Planet academy in pursuit of the revolutionary game that Eddie Bravo displayed against Royler. Over the following years Bravo would teach his system to grappling stars like George Sotiropoulos and Vinny Magalhaes, who would use the rubber guard to great success in later years.
It wasn't until years later however that Eddie Bravo's system would truly receive the credit it deserves. The emergence of grappling sensations, Geo Martinez and Richie "Boogeyman" Martinez meant that the legitimacy of the system was truly cemented in the eyes of the wider jiu-jitsu community who had continued to question Bravo's ability. Bravo further proved his match with Gracie was not a fluke in 2014 when he faced him in a rematch, in which Bravo more than held his own.
It is impossible to imagine that 10th Planet jiu-jitsu's meteoric rise would have happened without that triangle choke in Brazil.