Although next week’s return of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championship was received with a great deal of enthusiasm by the fans, a tournament that had been put on a shelf of the sport’s international calendar since June 2019 due to the global COVID19 pandemic, there are still plenty of hills to climb in order to fully restore gi-jiu-jitsu to its original, pre-pandemic, status.
With the brackets not set in stone, and all the challengers signed, we now know that the Mundial will be missing a large number of its top performers, with these vacancies coming from a wide range of competitors, from legends to rising stars, across all weight classes and genders leading us to believe that the biggest gi event on the planet lost a fair share of its past allure.
The cause for this lack of interest by so many of the sport’s top players may very well be a combination of factors. From the difficulty foreign grapplers found in traveling to the US under the current COVID restrictions to the fact that many athletes have not been as active on the tournament scene due to its overall scarcity (particularly in Europe where so many countries are still suffering heavy restrictions), to the harsh reality that many professional jiu-jitsu platforms have spent the past 18 months allocation all their resources on to the no-gi aspect of the sport, relegating the gi to a lower status of relevance.
Below is a (not so) short list of 20 of jiu-jitsu’s biggest names missing from this year’s Mundial event.
LUCAS LEPRI (lightweight, Alliance)
Arguably the greatest lightweight of all time, Lepri will not defend his world title this year. If he did, it would be his 6th consecutive title defense. It is unclear why Lucas opted to not compete at this year’s tournament, though the fact that he is now 37-years-old and has a big academy to run could likely be behind the decision.
MARCUS BUCHECHA (ultra-heavyweight, Checkmat)
The 31-year-old is the most accomplished gi grappler of all time with 13 world titles at black belt and a record-breaking 6 double gold performances at the Mundial. Sadly, but understandably, Buchecha is seeking a different challenge in his career, having opted to pursue MMA.
GABRIEL ARGES (middleweight, Gracie Barra)
Another current champion not defending his world title this year is Gabe Arges, one of the main figures of Gracie Barra Northridge’s golden generation. Arges is currently recovering from a rib injury he suffered during his no-gi worlds training camp.
MICAEL GALVÃO (middleweight, Fight Sports)
The sport has many rising stars but none has gathered as much popularity as “Mica”. The son and student of Melqui Galvão is one of the youngest jiu-jitsu black belts of all time, having just turned 18. Sadly for his fans, the limit age for a black belt as ruled by the IBJJF is 19, therefore, Galvão is not yet eligible to compete in the big show.
RAFAELA GUEDES (heavyweight, Atos)
The breakthrough star of female jiu-jitsu in 2020, Rafaela has conquered every big gi and no-gi tournament on the international scene since achieving the black belt rank. Currently, the only titles missing from her trophy cabinet are the IBJJF World Championship (gi), and the ADCC.
Sadly, we are unlikely to see Guedes take a shot at a Mundial gold medal any time soon as the heavyweight star confessed to BJJ Heroes she has no immediate plans to return to the gi. Her future career will be solely dedicated to no-gi.
NATHIELY DE JESUS (heavyweight, Rodrigo Pinheiro BJJ)
Another huge loss for the fans is Nathiely. The Rodrigo Pinheiro representative is a 5x world champion at black belt, two of those medals coming from double gold podiums. De Jesus is the current open-weight champion and would have certainly been one of the favorites at the Worlds. Luckily, Nathiely’s reason to miss the tournament is a much more positive one as she has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl on December 02, 2021.
PEDRO MARINHO (medium-heavyweight, Gracie Barra)
One of the biggest stars of 2021 was Marinho who won double-gold at the IBJJF NO-GI World Championships this year and a silver medal at the GI Pan-American tournament. Well-positioned to be one of the favorites at the Mundial, Pedro has opted against an attempt at quadruple IBJJF World Championship gold (no-gi & gi) this year, stating that his training schedule had been too inconsistent since winning the no-gi worlds to put on a real challenge to the top.
JOÃO GABRIEL ROCHA (ultra-heavyweight, Double Five)
For years, João Gabriel was regarded as the #2 ultra-heavyweight in the world, second only to Marcus Almeida. With Buchecha out of the race, this appeared to be the perfect opportunity for the 30-year-old to take the only big title that has escaped his career.
Rocha made a solid appearance at the AJP World Pro Qualifier this year, missing the final due to injury, giving his fans hope that he would be back for the Mundial. Sadly, he won’t.
GUTEMBERG PEREIRA (super-heavyweight, GFT)
Another one of the Mundial’s biggest misses is GF Team’s “Berg”, whose had a spectacular 2021 with wins over Nicholas Meregali, Lucas Hulk, Erich Munis, Tácio Carneiro, Marcus “Scooby” Ribeiro, to name a few. Gutemberg was on his way to being one of the super-heavyweight division’s favorites but a ligament tear to his knee has kept him away from the prestigious tournament.
MAHAMED ALY (super-heavyweight, Team Lloyd Irvin)
On this endless roll of big names missing from the Worlds brackets is also 2018s super-heavyweight champ, Mahamed of TLI. Aly recently explained on his Instagram account that he is currently focused on pursuing a career in no-gi and has no desire to compete in the gi, therefore skipping the Mundial.
FFION DAVIES (featherweight, ECBJJ)
One of the most exciting grapplers on the planet, Ffion is another huge miss from the big show. The Welsh athlete, who resides in the Republic of Ireland will also be missing the event, and although no reason was given for that decision, the current COVID traveling restrictions appear to be at the root of this decision.
DIOGO REIS (light-featherweight, Fight Sports)
Currently on an 18 match winning streak, with wins over Meyram Maquine, Lucas Pinheiro (2x), Hiago George (2x), Bebeto Oliveira, Kalel Santos, Gabriel Gaudio, to name a few, is Diogo Reis, student of Melqui Galvão.
Although just 19 years old, there is no doubt that Reis will become a force in the division, sadly, Reis opted out of this year’s World Championships. According to our sources, this was a career decision, choosing instead to stay in the UAE where he is working with the Al Wahda Club, helping develop the association’s jiu-jitsu program. He intends to return to the IBJJF circuit next year.
INGRIDD ALVES (heavyweight, Guigo)
A star on the rise is heavyweight Ingridd Alves, a former student of NS Brotherhood, currently competing under Guigo JJ. Alves has been on a tear this year with a double gold performance at the IBJJF South American Championships, and gold at the AJP’s World Pro, Brazilian National Pro, South American Continental Pro, and a silver medal at the Rio Grand Slam. Without a doubt a front runner for the Worlds, Ingridd will be missing the tournament due to her visa appointment being held back after COVID19 related delays.
ROOSEVELT SOUSA (ultra-heavyweight, Fight Sports)
One of the most entertaining ultra-heavyweight grapplers on the international scene, Roosevelt has not had a chance to make himself noticed to the American crowd since earning his black belt due to his visa being denied. Sousa has one of the highest submission rates in the division and wins over big names such as Anderson Munis, Wallace Costa, Igor Schneider, to name a few. A very entertaining athlete.
CLAUDIA DO VAL (super-heavyweight, Gracie Barra)
Another current world champion who is out of the title race. We have no information regarding Claudia’s reasons for missing the event, although we haven’t seen her compete in a while.
ANA SCHMITT (featherweight, TMC)
As it’s been a common theme of the 2021 World Championships, another champion won’t be defending its title. Schmitt became a mother earlier this year and has opted to stay out with the promise of a return next year.
DUDA TOZONI (rooster weight, TMC)
Another rising star of the new generation is Maria Eduarda Tozoni, AKA “Duda”. While competing in Brazil’s national circuit, 20-year-old, Tozoni held 3 wins over the division’s number #2, Brenda Larissa.
A superb guard player, Tozoni won the IBJJF World Championships as a purple belt at the last event and was due to return to the Mundial as a black belt this year, but her visa was denied.
RUDSON MATEUS (medium-heavyweight, CTA)
One of the most exciting grapplers of 2019, Rudson has wrestled with a lingering injury that persisted after surgery. Still struggling to find consistency in training, Mateus has contemplated abandoning the sport altogether but seems to be making a second attempt at surgery next year.
LUCAS PROTASIO (lightweight, Checkmat)
One of the most exciting grapplers in our sport is black belt newcomer, Lucas Protásio. The Brazilian has been on a tear in the Brazilian circuit since achieving his black belt, no doubt one of the most entertaining athletes in the division. Sadly, another case of visa issues has placed the Potiguar talent out of the race.
KENDALL REUSING (super-heavyweight, Gracie Barra)
Very active throughout the year, we were surprised not to see the Red Shield representative compete in jiu-jitsu’s biggest tournament. Reusing explained to BJJ Heroes that she is currently fully committed to no-gi and has no plans to return to the gi.
KEENAN CORNELIUS (heavyweight, Legion AJJ)
The legendary American lapel guard player has been at the top of the game since 2013, and although a veteran, Keenan is still only 29 years old and was actively competing up until last year. Hard to tell if he is solely focused on his coaching role at Legion American Jiu-Jitsu or if his injuries have finally detoured Cornelius from taking another shot at gold. Whichever is the reason, the event is undoubtedly poorer without his presence.
GIANNI GRIPPO (featherweight, Alliance)
One of the most successful American grapplers in history, Gianni is still well within the age of success for a big tournament such as the World Championships, but sadly for gi fans, his focus appears to be in no-gi.