By TXMMA Staff
Upcoming BJJ Classic Pan Am Championship 2015 to put grapplers to the test
DALLAS, TX – When it comes to unique tournament structure, the BJJ Classic has to be considered one of the most unique in the state of Texas given that they’re the only tournament of their kind. Helmed by Christopher Story, the BJJ Classic uses the IBJJF rule set for the most part but does not awards point during matches. They are a true no time limit, submission only tournament. This means that the match does not end until one competitor has been submitted. Which means that every one of the matches you will see at any BJJ Classic tournament will be devoid of any outside influence, including advantages or disputed points. It’s one on one, to see who’s jiujitsu reigns supreme, all the way to the very end.
We recently spoke to BJJ Classic promoter Christopher Story in advance of their next tournament, The BJJ Classic PanAm Championships scheduled for March 28th-29th of this month.
Read on and learn more about why they provide this unique experience and what they hope it will add to the Texas BJJ tournament scene:
TXMMA Interview – Christopher Story of the BJJ Classic
Chris, tell us a little bit about your BJJ background.
I started jiu-jitsu in 1999 with Orlando Waugh back at Mohler Jiu-Jitsu. At that time Orlando was a purple belt and Allen Mohler was a brown belt. I call those the good old days; when seeing a purple belt was rare and they were the top of the food chain and seeing a black belt was like god stepped on the mat. (Carlos Machado was the only black belt in Texas at that time). To give you an idea of what jiu-jitsu looked like back then, when I started, Travis Lutter (Lutter Jiu-Jitsu), Orlando Waugh (Waugh Jiu-Jitsu), Kenny McClure, and Buddy Clinton were purple belts; JD Shelly (North Dallas MMA), Kirk Gibson, Yousef (Star BJJ), James Brown, Roberto Kaelin (Roberto Kaelin BJJ), and Jose Reyes (Reyes BJJ) were blue belts. There were three schools in DFW: Carlos Machado, Travis Lutter, and Allen Mohler. At that time everyone was connected to Carlos Machado and the Machado Lineage.
So you’ve been around the Texas BJJ scene for some time. What was the tournament scene like back in those early days?
When I started, there were very few tournaments. In fact, Carlos Machado held the only tournaments in Texas and the tournaments consisted mainly of white and blue belts. We were lucky if we saw a purple belt compete (purple belts competing was very rare). If you saw a purple belt compete at that time it was the most exciting match to watch. To date, I am currently a 2nd Degree Black Belt under Bruno Bastos. Starting Jiu-Jitsu in those days gives me a much different perspective on the way tournaments and jiu-jitsu itself is today, much different.
We didn’t roll with a timer, we rolled until someone got submitted. Kind of like playing pool or playing cards, there was an etiquette to how we rolled. If you were the person tapping out the other person consistently you didn’t stop rolling with them till they had enough and wanted to trade partners. You couldn’t tap someone out once without giving them a chance to give their dime back. There was not a clock to save you from getting tapped. It was a 100% win or lose. No question of who was better, no would-have, should-have, could-have; you either did or you didn’t. It built character. A different kind of character than the clock builds. The mental shift of rolling till someone taps out changes everything. I love it!! It makes you wrestle with your inner-self, the inner-self that has doubt or worry. It teaches you how doubt and worry do not belong on the mat. When you have a timer set for 5 minutes, you know there is always an out and you can hold someone for the whole 5 minutes and walk away in a draw or feeling as if you won by controlling… but remove the clock and you have to check yourself mentally.
When did you start hosting events in the state?
We started hosting events in Texas in 2012. We held 1-2 events a year. Every event we hosted got bigger and bigger. So this year we have decided to add the No-Gi Division to the BJJ Classic.
Now your tourneys are a little different than the norm. Why the sub only format?
We believe that No Points / No Time limit / Submission Only is the only way to have a true uncontested winner. You can’t blame the ref when you tap out (you can only blame yourself), there is no way to have an out (the timer can’t save you), stalling to win is impossible, and winning by a small advantage is impossible. It is, without question, the purest form of BJJ that you will find.
How do your events compare, to say something like Metamoris?
Metamoris is great. In fact, it has helped push the submission-only format to the jiu-jitsu community. The BJJ Classic does have some differences: there is no time limit – so having a match go to a draw is impossible, the match must end with a winner. Most tournament promoters who run sub-only have a time limit. We refuse to have a time limit. The time limit still harbors the same mind-set of “at least i didn’t get tapped out”. We want our competitors to think “dang I made a mistake and got tapped out” or “I won that by submission, now i have to get my mind ready for the next match”.
Before, you had mentioned to us that you’re only doing two events a year. What is the thought process behind that?
Doing only two events a year is important to us. The name BJJ Classic actually came from the idea of going back to the roots of jiu-jitsu. In 1996 the first Mundials/Worlds (also known today as The IBJJF Worlds) was held in Brazil and the PanAms was held in California; they were the top tournaments. In fact looking back, they were very small at the time too! We are paying homage to the classic way of how BJJ tournaments started. We have zero interest in beating or going against the IBJJF. We are focused on creating and setting the standard in our own sector which is Submission Only. We are not in a rush to build the world’[s largest tournament with an event every other weekend.
We want our events to have significant meaning to them. With the submission only aspect of the BJJ Classic, if you win a BJJ Classic PanAms or BJJ Classic Mundials/Worlds tournament, there is no question that you won because you submitted all of your opponents. We will only hold two events a year which are the BJJ Classic PanAms and the BJJ Classic Mundials/Worlds. We believe that having a tournament every other weekend removes some of the value of that tournament. Think about it, how many people that do jiu-jitsu view NAGA as a tournament to help get ready for the IBJJF Pans or Worlds tournaments? Automatically, NAGA is somewhat devalued because you can do NAGA every weekend all year long. NAGA is positioned themselves to want to be the world’s largest grappling tournament not the world’s best grappling tournament, they put themselves in second place to IBJJF and they know it. The BJJ Classic is not a warm up tournament. Our tournament is the tournament you have to warm up for! We are not going to devalue the BJJ Classic in that manner. In fact, we are okay with people adding submission only format to their tournaments. They will help our competitors get ready for our two big Championships each year… so keep on adding sub-only divisions because it is great for all of us. Our take is this, you will know the time of year each of the BJJ Classic PanAMs and BJJ Classic Mundials/Worlds tournament is held. If you miss it, you have to wait a full year to do it again. We are not in direct competition with the other tournaments such as NAGA, Fight to Win, or AGF. We have placed ourselves in a different hemisphere of tournaments; separating ourselves from the pack.
To us, less is more. The less tournaments a year, the more competitors will train for it specifically, which will in turn create better/larger brackets for the competitors. This will also create the big titles such as BJJ Classic PanAm Champion and BJJ Classic World Champion. Having solid brackets and a big title is more valuable to the competitors than having one person in their division because everyone else decided to do the other tournament just held two months ago. If you ask me, that is value at its best!!
With these matches sometimes going so long, have there been any truly memorable ones that stick out?
- Brenna Tromble (Evolve BJJ) vs. Keegan Swindell (Open Door Academy) – Match time – 1 hour 20 Mins.
This match was intense, it was as long as a movie!! The match was so long we could have set up a TV at the tournament and watched the entire movie of Training Day with Denzel Washington! An hour and 20 minute match is impressive. Win or lose it takes heart to fight that long and not give up till the bitter end.
- Cooper Cardinale (Alvarez BJJ) vs. Kevin Cordova (Gracie Barra)
This match was awesome! It took two very good competitors who are really good at fighting points and time and threw it all out the door. You really got to see them open up their bag of tricks and work to submit one another. The match lasted about 35 minutes until someone tapped. 30 minutes is impressive, but seeing both competitors not having to worry about rushing and getting to take their time to set up their attacks and map out their plan was awesome watching first-hand. For the BJJ enthusiasts, it was a nail-biter.
- Carlos Diego Ferreira (Atos BJJ) vs. Albert Hughes (Genesis Jiu-Jitsu)
Carlos and Albert fought their way through several competitors making their way to meet in the finals. The winner of the finals match was to earn a $3,000 cash prize. Carlos Diego Ferreira caught Albert in a wrist lock less than 10 seconds into the match, making it the fastest $3,000 ever made in a BJJ Tournament.
- Robert Yamashita (Elite MMA) vs Rico Bastos (Bastos BJJ)
This was a 40 minute match of back and forth between the two making it another intense match to watch. They are two tough black belts. At that time in 2013 Rico had just won the IBJJF Master Seniors Worlds Absolute division which is a big title and a few weeks later fought in the BJJ Classic. To see some at that level like Rico go to the deep end of the pool in jiu-jitsu and back was awesome!! Side note: Rico is excited about the upcoming tournament already asking about doing super fights.
- Dustin Snow (Genesis Jiu-Jitsu) vs. Kevin Cordova (Gracie Barra)
Anyone who knows Dustin knows that he is a high flying triangle machine. Dustin goes for the finish over and over and over. Watching him and Kevin go at it was great to see. Dustin himself has mentioned he loves the format of being able to chase submission after submission without consequences of points.
How would you explain a BJJ Classic tournament experience to a competitor that’s never done an event like this before?
No Points / No Time Limit / Submission only is amazing!!! If you haven’t done it before, you should give it a shot and test yourself both mentally and physically!!
If you have done an IBJJF tournament, you will be familiar with how we run the BJJ Classic. Weigh-ins, Gi Check, Registrations, Schedule, etc… are pretty much the same, but we have stripped away the points and time limit. We start each division on time. No waiting around all day to fight. If your division is scheduled to start at 1pm then it will not start early; it will start exactly at 1pm. This helps you know when you should be at the tournament getting ready. We have very high standards at the BJJ Classic and hold ourselves and our competitors to them from top to bottom. If you have only done NAGA, Fight to win, or AGF the No Points / No Time Limit Submission only format is different, almost relieving not having to count points or check time.
Out of all of the events we have held, no one has ever blamed the referee for a bad call, because they can’t blame the ref for a bad call when they tap out. The arguing with refs you see at NAGA is non-existent at the BJJ Classic. Tapping out takes it to a whole new level of responsibility for the competitor to accept defeat. No one walks away saying “the ref screwed me” or “they are a horrible ref”. This makes for a very pleasant, not so tense environment for coaches, competitors, and spectators. Coaches can’t get mad at the ref when their student taps out!
What message do you have for Texas grapplers?
Broaden your horizons and embrace the mental struggle that comes with no points/ no time limit. We have all seen the meme floating around Facebook. Rickson Gracie saying “if you are uncomfortable fighting without a time limit then there is something wrong with your jiu-jitsu.” I do agree with that. To all of the new schoolers, White, blue purples, brown, etc. If you haven’t removed the clock from your grappling I encourage you to try it. It will push and make you soul search in a way like to other. It will teach you patience, self-control, humility, and mental fortitude to the extreme. Take a look at Kron Gracie, he has mentioned that in IBJJF he doesn’t do as well, but when you remove the points / time he destroys it!
The BJJ Classic to us is more than a tournament. It is a passion to spread jiu-jitsu in its purest form, to show the world the unadulterated art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The upcoming tournament, BJJ Classic Pan Am Championships 2015 on March 28th & 29th is going to be a big tournament. We will have Gi and No Gi. It will be a two day event with Gi on the first day and No-Gi on the second day. Because the event is only held once a year, those who submit their opponents and make it to the top will earn the title of BJJ Classic Pan Am Champion of 2015.
The BJJ Classic is unlike any other tournaments out there. It is no points, no time limit, and submission only. We are not like the rest and plan to stay that way. Our take on holding tournaments is much different than most tournament promoters. Our goal is to promote a new way of thinking within the jiu-jitsu community by going back to the roots of the classic way of thinking; the Helio Gracie way of thinking where submission must happen in order to determine a winner, hence the name BJJ Classic.
Also, the Absolute division is free to all competitors. Don’t miss out on the Absolute division!! To participate in the Absolute division, you must select it during registration.