It is said that the apple never falls far from the tree and in Renan Cruz’s case, the famous saying fits his story like a glove. Over the past couple of years, Renan’s jiu-jitsu career has taken off like a rocket ship with the young athlete conquering gold medals at the IBJJF Pan American Championships (2021), Abu Dhabi World Pro (2021), and the Miami Grand Slam (2020 & 2021) as a brown belt, to which we can add a World title as a purple belt back in 2019 – at the last World Championships tournament produced by the IBJJF. A truly remarkable career thus far for the young Rio de Janeiro native who showed the grappling community he is more than able to conquer his own space in our sport, and clear away from his father’s shadow.
Renan’s father, Márcio Cruz – the famous Pé de Pano – is nothing short of a jiu-jitsu legend, having conquered two open weight World Championships titles in the IBJJF’s adult black belt division, among many other important gold medals throughout his career. The creme of the crop of grappling. Renan, on the other hand, is at the start of his pro-career, nevertheless, it is impossible not to draw physical and stylistic similarities between the two: Aggressive, leg-centric, traditional guards when playing from the bottom and a passing style with the inimitable Cruz trademark of heavy hip pressure.
Although his father was present during his formative years, Renan grew up with his mother, in Rio de Janeiro, while Márcio lived in Florida, USA. Given the circumstances, the young athlete’s first jiu-jitsu experience came through locally, at GF Team‘s affiliate in the Merck housing complex in the neighborhood of Jacarepaguá. That initial experience was, however, short-lived as the young Cruz lacked drive and commitment to the sport, slowly drifting away from it. By the time he was in his early teens, he had quit training altogether.
It was only after his 18th birthday that Renan returned to jiu-jitsu. The interest came through after his move to the United States to be with his father. Under Márcio’s tutelage, the younger Cruz quickly made a mark in the sport with his breakthrough moment at the World Championships as a blue belt (2017) with two bronze medals.
From that first double bronze at the Mundials, Cruz’s career grew exponentially, so much so that he became the first male adult colored belt on the AJP tour to compete in the adult black belt division. This happened back in September 2021, at the Grand Slam in Miami, where Renan was forced to compete with the black belts despite being a brown belt (a fact that didn’t stop him from collecting the gold medal).
Why was Cruz forced to compete in a division above his actual belt rank? That decision came down to a new rule applied by the well respected AJP federation, which forces athletes to compete in the next rank once they win the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship in theirs (i.e. 2021 brown belt AD World Pro champion will compete as a black belt from then on, regardless of his coach promoting him or not).
The outstanding work by the masterful grappler that is Renan Cruz, has earned him a hefty curriculum this far. His main achievements going as follows:
– 1st Place AJP Abu Dhabi World Pro (2021 brown)
– 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championships (2021 brown)
– 1st Place AJP Grand Slam, Miami (2020 & 2021)
– 3rd Place IBJJF European Open (2020 purple)
– 1st Place IBJJF World Championships (2019 purple)
– 3rd Place IBJJF World Championships (2017** blue)
With the IBJJF finally setting up a date for the World Championships, we can expect Renan to be one of the favorites for gold at brown belt. From there the sky is the limit for the Cruz dynasty who is expected to go far in the foreseeable future.