Tournament Review Tuesday: Abu Dhabi Pro Jiu Jitsu European Qualifiers

Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Action in the A division. Photos courtesy Jon Broster.

By Jon Broster
This event was hosted by Zé Marcello of Brazilian Top Team and Jude Samuel of European Fight Network.

Arriving at the venue, it was clear for all to see that this was no ordinary competition. Dartford Judo Club is the Performance Institute for British Judo and is, therefore, home for a number of Olympic judo players. As might be expected, the facilities are excellent:

  • Two full size Olympic judo mats.
  • Cinema-style seating for around 200 spectators (ie soft chairs, not bleachers).
  • Large, clean changing facilities.

Dartford is around 30 miles south east of the centre of London, and is within easy reach of all 4 of London’s airports, as well as being only a short drive from the English Channel, placing it within easy reach of European competitors and making it an excellent choice of venue for this international event. Participants had traveled from all over the United Kingdom and there were significant numbers of French and Polish competitors as well as people from Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

At the weigh in it was obvious that this was a very serious event – everyone was in great shape, there was no one who looked to be over weight or really skinny – and with good reason; up for grabs were all expenses paid tickets to the finals to be held in Abu Dhabi in April.

The event was well organized and, despite starting a few minutes late, ran smoothly all day. The officials all looked very smart, sporting black polo shirts and the venue had been suitably adorned with tournament sponsorship boards. One obvious difference from more standard events, was the relatively small number of divisions; there were no juniors, masters or seniors, simply adult divisions divided by weight for white belts, blue belts and a combined purple, brown & black belt division. The women were simply divided into 2 divisions by weight.

Right from the beginning there were some outstanding performances.

In the white belt under 83kg division, Wout Westra (Gracie Barra Netherlands) submitted all his opponents and finished one match in around 15 seconds, to land the quickest tap out of the day, with an armbar from standing.

East European judo player Vasil Panfil (RGA) smashed his way through the under 93kg blue belt division, repeatedly throwing all who stood before (some as many as 4 times) clocking up huge scores in the process, before taking both his weight division and the heavier of the two absolute divisions.

At the lighter end of the blue belt divisions Londoner Daniel Agard (BJJ School)demonstrated some beautiful sweeps and submissions on his way to winning both the under 73kg and the lighter absolute divisions.

In the women’s division, the fight of the day had to go to the white belt who held out for the full time and was only beaten on points by her brown belt opponent, showing some fantastic defense in the process.

Division A (the combined purple, brown and black belt division) was like a who’s who of European BJJ competitors; there were no fewer than 14 European gold medal winners competing, together with medalists from every major tournament across Europe and around the world.

The standard of competition was, as would be expected, outstanding.

In the under 83kg division Henrique Santana (Gracie Barra) ground out victories all his opponents, scoring well and conceding very few points indeed to his opponents.

I think for many the stand out performance of the day was by Luke Costello (Gracie Barra Birmingham) at under 92kg, who, despite being only a purple belt, showed some fantastic movement, taking the fight to and beating brown belts and coming close in the final against Nic Gregoriades (RGA) who is one of Britain’s leading black belts.

The atmosphere throughout the day was fantastic, thanks in no small part to the sizable and very vocal French contingent. Now it only remains to wait until April to see how well the European qualifiers rise to the challenge of taking on the best in the world.

As a spectacle, this was without doubt one of the best BJJ tournaments that has ever been held in Britain – congratulations to all those concerned.

Dartford Judo Club
The venue, Dartford Judo Club.


Jon Broster trains under Victor Estima & Dave Briggs at Gracie Barra Mansfield and under Lee Livingstone at Bushido MMA.

This is an installment in our Tournament Review Tuesdays column, where FightWorks Podcast listeners submit reports about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions that happened the weekend prior. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of The FightWorks Podcast. Through the rest of 2009, if you submit a Tournament Review Tuesday piece, you might win an Isami gi!

– Caleb

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