During the action at today’s 2009 BJJ Pan-Ams, I sat down for a quick moment with Mike Buckels, one of the head event organizers inside the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Foundation. Mike had some very impressive things to say about turnout this year…
Caleb: Give us some perspective on the number of competitors this year at the 2009 Pan-Ams.
Mike Buckels: We have about 2,500 competitors this year. Obviously that’s a massive tournament and about 500 more than we’ve had at the Worlds or Pan-Ams to this point, so that’s a huge turnout.
Caleb: Give people a little insight into the setup for the black belt absolute divisions.
Mike Buckels: Most of the divisions are set by feeding the competitors into a computer. Obviously everything’s computerized. It just spits out divisions. In the black belt divisions however, for the fans, especially in the black belt open class, a lot of the heads of the different organizations and teams will get together and they seed the black belt fighters to make it a better experience for the spectators. So for example, you don’t get a match up like, in say, last year’s final – Roger Gracie versus Xande Ribeiro in the preliminary rounds instead of the finals. You want the finals and semifinals to be exciting. So they go through a seeding process with the black belts. [There is] a trememendous amount of competitors this year in the black belt divisions. I think from featherweight to heavyweight there are no less than 10 black belts per division in the adult class alone, not even counting the masters and seniors divisions.
Caleb: That’s a big jump.
Mike Buckels: It means that across divisions we’re probably talking about between 80 to 100 adult black belt competitors here. And again, I’m not talking about the masters and seniors. That’s just adults.
Caleb: If this big of a jump in attendance happened between the Mundials and now, then what we see at this summer’s Mundials should be off the charts.
Mike Buckels: It should be, and we have to get prepared for it. With the recession that the country is in we actually expected less people this year. We expected about a 10 to 20 percent drop. We were expecting around 1,800 and 2,500 competitors registered. So if this is any indication, Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a sport, even in a recession, is thriving.