BJJ is known for its close relationship with Rio de Janeiro, San Diego and São Paulo. these three cities could go toe-to-toe with each other to try and decide which has the most abundance of high level grapplers per square mile. Often unjustly disregarded as a contender in this race is Manaus in the state of Amazonas, a city that has produced its fair share of world jiu jitsu champions and pro MMA belt holders.
A hard land in the middle of the Amazon jungle, Manaus is particularly difficult to reach by car due to its precarious roads, being boat and plane the most common access routes of access. Maybe the isolation, maybe the extreme heat and humidity (or a combination of all three) have helped carve toughness into its citizens’ skin, because the number of high level combat competitors to come out of this state is hard to match.
The profile of the Amazon athlete may lack the extrovert personality of the “Cariocas”, the sophistication of the “Paulistas” or the laid back lifestyle of the Californians which may hinder their exposure in media circles, but what they lack in these traits they make up for in grit and determination. You may not see them goofing around in their instagram accounts, or sending shout outs to their fans on twitter, but in hard work and talent they are hard to beat.
To have a small idea of the level produced in the Amazonas region, here is a short list of black belt world champions from from this state:
Saulo Ribeiro, Xande Ribeiro, Omar Salum, Gabriel Moraes, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Bibiano Fernandes, Ary Farias, Fernando Vieira, Paulo “Coelho” Brandão, Fredson Paixão, Arlison “Kiki” Melo, Antonio Braga Neto as well as legendary figures such as Cosmo Dias, Carlos Holanda, to name a few.
Over the past few years the Amazonas-Manaus BJJ circuit has has slowly lost its place position at the top of the jiu jitsu’s ladder, but the beast is bouncing back and names such as Manuel Ribamar, Alex Sodré, Rudson Mateus, Lucas Pinheiro, Jessica Flowers and Jaqueline Amorim are on the rise. The future is looking exceptionally bright once again, a comeback that is largely occurred thanks to the work being done by coaches such as Carlos Holanda, Master Faustino Pina, Henrique Machado and a few others who have chosen their home state against the appeal of the dollar, rebuilding the pride of Manaus from the ground up.