The IBJJF World Championships have long been considered the pinnacle of competitive jiu-jitsu. The black belts are always the main focus, as they represent the highest levels of technique and athleticism. However, the Worlds also serve as an excellent preview into what the future black belt divisions will look like. Many athletes who thrive in the purple and brown belt divisions are often only two years away from their first world titles as black belts. The following athletes won the 2021 IBJJF Worlds as brown belts and have already been promoted to black belt. You can expect to see them competing in the black belt divisions at the major tournaments in 2022.
Tye & Kade Ruotolo
Despite being heavily focused on no-gi in 2021, Tye and Kade Ruotolo decided to test their mettle in the gi at the World Championships. The brothers both signed up in the lightweight division, promising to fight each other if they both made the final, rather than closing out. Tye and Kade had four matches each, using their loose and dynamic styles to takedown, pass, and out hustle their opponents. In the final, the brothers went back and forth, exchanging takedowns and guard pass attempts. Although Kade had the more dominant run leading up to the final, it was Tye who came out on top, securing an armbar and getting the tap for the victory. Upon returning to Atos HQ in San Diego, the brothers were both promoted to black belt under Andre Galvao. With a stable full of world champions in both gi and no-gi to train with in San Diego, the Ruotolo brothers will likely be competing against the best in both styles for years to come.
Mateus Rodrigues is yet another product of the renowned Art of Jiu Jitsu program run by Guilherme and Rafael Mendes. After winning multiple IBJJF major titles in the colored belts, Mateus entered the middleweight division as one of the favorites. After four tough fights, he met Vinicius Martins of Alliance in the finals. Mateus played on top for the whole match, showcasing his pressure and side to side movement to stifle the attacks of Vinicius. As soon as Mateus walked off the mat, Professor Guilherme Mendes awarded him the coveted black belt. The middleweight division is currently dominated by Mateus’ teammate Tainan Dalpra, so it will be interesting to see whether he elects to compete in the same weight category or go up to middle-heavy, a division in which he has competed and had success in before.
Caio Terra Academy’s Mason Fowler has been spending most of his competition time without the gi in recent years, winning multiple Submission Underground events as well as the 2021 ADCC East Coast Trials. While Mason’s mixed martial arts background would lead many to believe that he was purely a top player, this is not the case. He certainly has great takedowns and passing, but also has a dangerous game off his back, frequently using his flexibility and technique to attack omoplatas and armbars. Like all of Caio Terra’s students, Mason is a very technical grappler whose game evolves every time he steps on the competition mat. Though he’ll likely focus mainly on no-gi competition with the 2022 ADCC World Championships being in September, don’t be surprised if Mason challenges himself in the gi as well.
Although he mainly competed as a lightweight in 2021, Eduardo Roque of R1NG BJJ decided to drop to featherweight for the Worlds. As a lightweight he won No-Gi Worlds and American Nationals and also earned a silver medal at the Pans. At the Worlds, Eduardo used a combination of spider and lasso control to tie up and sweeps his opponents up to the final, where he faced Daniel Sathler of Atos. Eduardo swept just over two minutes into the match and stayed on top for most of the remaining six minutes, earning a 2-0 points victory. Eduardo will have some stiff competition at black belt, with Fabricio Andrey, Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor, Alex Sodre, Diego Sodre, and many others currently ruling the division.
Amy Campo of Zenith competed in the middle-heavyweight and absolute divisions at the Worlds, dominating her opponents and scoring multiple submissions throughout, including chokes from the back and a triangle from bottom position. The double gold medal performance earned Amy her black belt on the podium from Eduardo Mori. Earlier in the year Amy competed in the ADCC East Coast Trials, so it will be interesting to see whether she pursues a spot at the 2022 ADCC World Championships or focuses more on gi competition. The current champion at middle-heavyweight is Ana Carolina Vieira, who is now a four time black belt world champion.
The IBJJF has announced the Europeans, Brazilian Nationals, and Pans so far for 2022. These announcements have been encouraging for the jiu-jitsu community, as we will likely see a schedule similar to pre-pandemic times in 2022. Be on the look out for all the new black belts looking to contend for major titles in their respective divisions.