On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th June 2013 the BJJ Pro Cup was held at the University of East London sports dock centre. It was an event with many firsts, but also one with a connection to some of the very first BJJ tournaments in the UK.
The East London University sports dock venue is a state of the art brand new leisure complex used mainly by students and staff at the university. Glass and steel surround the multi floor arena. The main sports hall was crammed with multiple martial arts tournaments including karate, taekwondo, MMA, gi and nogi jiu jitsu. It reminded me a lot of the SENI martial arts expo of previous years. Of course the similarity would be down to the fact that the London International Open is organised by the same people that also run SENI.
I missed the Saturday schedule but the whole day was dedicated to white, blue and purple belt fights. I showed up on the Sunday to spectate and take photographs of the rank and black belt absolutes and the novel new sub-event - the City v City Challenge.
The absolutes saw some quite eyebrow raising size differences, as they so often do. My team mate Andy Law enjoyed a 75 kilogram weight disadvantage in his third absolute fight. The man is an absolute warrior and at one point, I half expected him to simply get annoyed and bench press his 145 kilo opponent off his chest and throw him in the air. Sadly it was not to be but man, I have nothing but massive respect for any lighter weight person entering the open weight division!
The black belt fights were quite thrilling on both a technical level and, ahem, on a drama level! I won't go into details but suffice to say some advertising hoardings suffered a serious and brutal kicking as one coach let rip his emotions!
The City V City Challenge was the tournament organiser's (my coach Nick Brooks) idea to unite some of the very best grapplers from different affiliations and teams and who trained in the same city. It was an excellent idea and a wonderful showcase for some serious home-grown young jiu jitsu talent. I personally would have liked to see one or two more cities put together teams for this event, but regardless, the London, Hannover and Berlin teams all put themselves on the line and made for some epic matches.
I have to give massive props especially to three notable fighters. First up, my purple belt team mate Jack Cronin (photo below). Not only does he look like a samurai, he is one of the people you genuinely do not want to miss watching fight. He offers smooth, slick and quite sublime open guard skills that tear through opponents no matter the size.
The second fighter that caught my eye is young Carlson Gracie blue belt River Blue Dillon (his real name apparently!). River (photo below) is only 17 but has already racked up an enviable list of adult tournament titles. Yesterday he submitted his way to win all his matches with some highly proficient jiu jitsu.
Last but not least, another Carlson Gracie sensation, brown belt Sam Gibson was simply superb as he submitted one black belt and defeated the second by a margin of around 20 points. It was amazing to watch.
Well done to Nick and all the organisers of this event. It may have been the first ever BJJ Pro Cup but with a heritage based around the SENI format of old, it will always have a place in the BJJ calendar and attract fighters from both the UK and abroad. Oh, and did you notice the Meerkatsu ad boards in the photos? Those were my first ever adverts at a major event. I'm very proud to see it on display and to be associated with this event.