Recent news of the UAEJJF’s new weight restrictions resonated throughout jiu jitsu’s social media streams over the past couple of weeks. Some within our sport supported this new measure, though the majority of the feedback received by BJJ Heroes’ seemed to point to this plan as a negative sign of inequality from one of our sport’s premiere federations.
As explained to BJJ Heroes by Rodrigo Valério, one of UAEJJF’s top executives, the ruling fell under the pretext that larger competitors have caused serious injury to some of the smaller athletes in the federation’s tournaments, particularly in the absolute division where there are no weight limits between competitors. This guideline was taken with the athletes health in mind.
A few of the competitors we spoke to seem to agree with this, not merely from an injury perspective, but from an overall health point as well. One of these was blue belt Eduardo Lopes, also known as “Duzao”. At his current tournament weight of 150kg (331lbs), Lopes would not be allowed to compete next year and defend his ultra-heavy and open weight titles at the 2017 Abu Dhabi World Pro.
This year Eduardo broke out into the international scene winning double gold medals not only in Abu Dhabi, but also at the IBJJF Worlds and Pan American Championships, something for which his impressive frame certainly helped. When inquired about this rule change, Lopes had a very positive attitude towards the whole thing. Not one to dwell in the past Duzao mentioned he looks forward to losing 40kg (88lbs) for next year, claiming it will most likely improve his jiu jitsu and his health. Duzao did mentioned that he knew of a few competitors whom he had spoken to, who would not be following his lead, and would instead rule out the UAEJJF’s league from their sporting calendar.
The current Abu Dhabi World Pro female open class champion (brown/black category), Tayane Porfirio will be one of those who will not be cutting weight to make the tournament’s limit. Porfirio first mentioned she is not opposed to the ruling saying “I don’t think this is a bad thing you know, but they are cutting too low. There’s a few athletes who won’t make this 90kg female limit [198lbs]. I don’t think I can.” Tayane mentioned that the proximity between the Pan Ams, the World Pro and the Brazilian Nationals would severely damage her chances of success in the IBJJF circuit if she was to make such a significant weight drop. In her closing remarks Tayane mentioned feeling there was some prejudice towards the bigger female athletes:
“I know that story about the 198 kg guy who injured all those people, he is from Mongolia, but I’ve never seen any females injure anyone the way that guy did.” – Tayane Porfirio
Ultra-heavyweight jiu jitsu star Alexander Tráns is another athlete with mixed feelings towards the guideline. The dane believes a heavier limit should be in place, something along the lines of 120-130 kg, but follows up with “they [UAEJJF] can do whatever they want since it’s their tournament, and even with the strange rules they invent sometimes it’s still a better tournament than the ones that don’t pay anything” (…) personally I don’t see the need for a weight-limit, but at least they are announcing it now, so it’s not going to be like the situation with the patches where they invented a rule 2 weeks before the event that you can’t have patches on various parts of the kimono that are usually legal. They are giving people time to lose weight.”
Through and through, the athletes seem as divided on this subject as the public opinion. Time will tell how the rule change will alter the sport’s landscape, particularly in the absolute division, a weight class that has always been the standard-bearer of jiu jitsu, and if any other federations will adopt UAEJJF’s guidelines, as the federation grows its influence in the sporting world.
Cover photo taken by Callum Medcraft of JJ Style Magazine. (athlete facing the screen: Samantha Cook, team UK)