THE most successful Jiu-Jitsu team in the history of the sport, the Academia Alliance has a brilliant list of achievements with 8 successive World titles as a team (from 2008 to 2015) to add to two previous World trophies achieved in the 1990s (98 & 99). The academy suffered from internal problems at the turn of the century, seeing most of its black belt team leaving to form rival organizations. This event had Alliance spending a few years in the sidelines of the World IBJJF podium, but being the colossus it proved to be, the team came back to life with the “General” Fabio Gurgel, Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva and Romero Cavalcanti as the leaders of the group. Since it’s rebirth as a force in the sport, Alliance Jiu-Jitsu has set the standard within the new age of professionalized BJJ through talent, hard work, and strong logistics.
Alliance BJJ History
Romero Cavalcanti, famously known by his war name: Jacaré, trained for may years with Rolls Gracie, earning his black belt from this BJJ legend. After his master’s death, Jacaré spent some time training alongside Rickson Gracie, before leaving the Gracie Academy in the 1980s to form his own team. This team, named Jacare Jiu-Jitsu, formed tremendous talent proving that Romero Cavalcanti was an elite coach. As time went by, a few of Jacare’s top black belts left the club to progress as coaches themselves, a natural path for most BJJ black belts.
The competitions at the time were dominated mainly by the Carlson Gracie team and the Gracie Team. As Cavalcanti had few chances to rival against big academies such as the aforementioned, he decided to join forces with his former students and this way pose a threat to the podium steps at the bigger tournaments. It was then that Alliance Jiu-Jitsu was formed, having has its founders: Romero Jacare, Fabio Gurgel, Fernando Gurgel, and Alexandre Paiva.
|Lineage||Academia Gracie > Alliance Jiu-Jitsu|
|Founders||Romero Cavalcanti, Alexandre Paiva, Fernando & Fabio Gurgel|
|List of Black Belts||Alliance black belts listed on BJJ Heroes|
|Main Achievements||World Champions (1998, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019)|
In trying to expand Alliance to the US market, Romero Cavalcanti decided to shift gears and head to Miami. Jacaré left one of his top students in charge of his gyms and moved to sunny Florida. Jacaré (who has double citizenship), ended up not settling in Miami, moving to Altlanta where the academy truly grew. Atlanta then became the Head Quarters of the Alliance Team.
In 2002 a new Jiu-Jitsu federation was launched to rival the long-standing IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation), this new federation was named Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu Olimpico (CBJJO) and it intended to battle the well established IBJJF by awarding big money prizes to the winners of their tournaments (in all belts). This “war” between federations could have been very beneficial for Jiu Jitsu’s growth as it provided to streams of high-level competition for the athletes, but instead, it ended up bruising the sport as Nova União‘s star lined lightweight team stopped competing in IBJJF tournaments.
This tension between the opposite sides also caused a split within the core of the Alliance BJJ team. The problems started in May 2002 when Fernando Tererê, Eduardo Telles and Demian Maia disobeyed Fabio Gurgel’s instructions to compete at the Brazilian Team Nationals of CBJJ/IBJJF and instead competed at the new CBJJO’s tournament. Both competitions were held on the same weekend, but not on the same day, but Gurgel did not want to show support to the new federation. Tererê, Telles, and Maia preferred to compete for a cash prize and for that, they were sanctioned with a 3-month ban from the team by Master Gurgel.
The fighters were due to come back to the team in time for the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (the famous Mundial), but both federations persisted in “locking horns”, scheduling their most important tournaments for the same weekend. It was agreed that the Alliance team would compete at IBJJF’s event. In a last-minute change of heart, CBJJO anticipated their World Tournament (Copa do Mundo), making it possible to compete in both events. Demian Maia was quick to subscribe to the Copa do Mundo (CBJJO) and as a result, was taken off the team for IBJJF’s World Championship. This caused many of the Alliance team “elders” to publicly show their discontent towards Gurgel’s actions. Many, like Otavio Couto, believed that Fabio did not have the right or the power to expel the teams most experienced black belts. He (Couto) said to Tatame Magazine at the time:”Ninguém foi expulso da Alliance. Eles foram expulsos apenas da academia do Fábio, mas ainda são atletas da equipe.“Translation:
No one was kicked off the Alliance academy. They were just expelled from Fabio [Gurgel] academy, but they are still athletes of this team. – Otavio Couto
Tererê, one of the stars of this team also spoke (for Tatame Magazine):”Sempre gostei do Fábio, mas o clima ficou muito ruim dentro da Alliance. É importante esclarecer que ninguém foi expulso.”Translation:
I always liked Fabio, but the atmosphere within the team at the moment is awful. It is important to clarify that no one has been kicked out. – Tererê
Even though many didn’t believe it would happen, Jacaré (the team leader) chose to sit on the fence, not voicing his opinion on the matter publicly. This caused the students to leave the team. With them several others followed in a show of support, leaving the team naked of black belt world champions.
Above everything, the group respected Jacaré, who had been a coach and leader to most of them since their youth. As such the group chose to follow Cavalcanti’s hierarchy. The name utilized was “Master Team”, the name of Romero Cavalcanti’s academy before Alliance was formed. They also used the alligator as their logo, a sign that they were not cutting bonds with their master.
The Master team went on for around a year, and even Jacaré showed some support to the team after the 2003 World Championship in his post-event comments. Everything changed when rumors emerged that some students were using both patches combined – Alliance & Master – on their kimonos in competitions as if they were the same team. The members of Master believed this discredited their struggle and pressed Jacaré to make a decision once and for all.
The decision was finally made to “cut the cord”, and the students went their own ways, forming many of today’s top jiu jitsu teams, such as Brasa, Checkmat, Zenith BJJ, Atos and more.
- Fernando “Tererê”
- Demian Maia
- Eduardo Telles
- Leo Vieira
- Ricardo Vieira
- Rodrigo “Comprido”
- Otavio “Ratinho”
- Roberto Traven
- Eduardo “Jamelão”
- Leo Castello Branco
- Felipe Costa
- Reinaldo Ribeiro
For years, after the Alliance break-up, the group lacked a big team of representatives at the major league of Jiu-Jitsu (the adult black belt division) as they had done in previous years. In the meantime, the former BB’s that left the Alliance team continued displaying their strength in tournaments and also forming new talent in teams such as Brasa, TT, Master Team and others.
In 2006, one of the strongest teams in the BJJ landscape at the time closed its doors; this team was “TT” which had been formed by Alliance dissidents Eduardo Telles and Fernando Tererê. TT had a tremendous amount of talent coming through their ranks: “Cobrinha”, Leandro Martins, Michael Langhi, Lucas Lepri, André Galvão, Gabriel Goulart, Sergio Moraes, and many others who were left without a master as their coach “Terere” left the sport due to personal reasons (see his biography page on this website).
Most of these competitors were from São Paulo and they ended seeking Fabio Gurgel’s academy to prepare for competitions, this was a blessing for a team in need of some talent in the higher ranks. Alliance also benefited from a team shift of Bruno Malfacine, who left GFTeam in Rio de Janeiro to come to Sao Paulo where he joined Alliance, also Gabriel Vella (from Ryan Gracie) and Luana Alzuguir (From Barbosa Jiu-Jitsu), all 3 in 2008.
With the help of these strong competitors now in training every day at the Sao Paulo HQ, in just a few years, Alliance was back stronger than ever dominating the world’s biggest tournaments. It has since grown even further having continuously produced fresh talent every year in both the women’s and the men’s divisions.
Alliance Team Video
Photograph by Ken