In the world of competitive jiu-jitsu, few athletes bring Gabrielle McComb‘s level of intensity and excitement to the mats. Gabi, as she is known among friends, first visited the United States back in 2013, to compete in the IBJJF World Championship, in California, a tournament she won. This first interaction with the US jiu-jitsu circuit truly impressed the young Manaus native at the time and led her to repeat the trip on several occasions, ultimately being the driving force behind McComb’s permanent move to America in 2016.
“Although it was a very hard decision to make, and harder still to adapt to a whole new lifestyle, there was no comparing the level of professionalism I experienced in the USA,” Gabi explained to BJJ Heroes in an interview undertaken in September 2020.
Upon her settling in the Northern Hemisphere, McComb was competing almost exclusively in the IBJJF circuit, the hardest and most well-respected league in gi jiu-jitsu, a habit she maintained over the past four years, during which she conquered 3 World Championships medals, with 3 more in the No-Gi World Championships and (drum roll)… 5 Pan American titles (out of a total of 6 medals), an outstanding volume of high-quality results.
This tight relationship with the more traditional jiu-jitsu circuit of the aforementioned IBJJF, did not stop Gabi from testing herself in different formats, and more recently we’ve seen this Brazilian Tasmanian Devil compete in a number of submission-only type events, be it at the Fight 2 Win promotion or, more recently, winning the Submission On The Shore, in a very talent dense tournament. During her recent chat with our site, we had a chance to ask the reasoning behind this recent turn to sub-only:
“I didn’t enjoy sub-only in the past that much because I didn’t focus so much on that aspect of the fight. Up until about a year and a half ago, if you asked me: ‘which ruleset do you prefer to compete in?’ I would have answered ‘IBJJF’. I event had a chat with Lê [Gabi’s coach, Leticia Ribeiro] at one point and said ‘man, I win but I never have the patience to hold a position long enough to cook an opponent towards the submission’. But more recently I have focussed more of my training on that and started improving my submission ratio. Today I am very comfortable competing in any system.”
We referenced her Tasmanian Devil persona above due to her ferociousness on the mats, but possibly a more suitable comparison would be that of writer Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In her private life, and outside the mats, McComb is the picture of composure and friendliness, a perfect Dr. Jekyll, but on the mats, Mr. Hyde comes out in a big way. McComb is well known for her pace, relentless pressure, and aggression. This extra energy felt during competition is something Gabi has learned to deal with over the years:
“When I was younger I couldn’t control my emotions for weeks before a tournament. I would get very anxious, but I have learned to deal with this. I don’t think about the upcoming competition all day, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I tell myself self ‘I will get nervous when I get there, regardless of what I do, so why waste energy before the tournament?’. So I handle it as if it was just another day, but when that day comes I get in competition mode. I did everything I could and I will go forward until the very last second.”
That same mindset is what she will be bringing to this month’s Pan American Championships, the biggest jiu-jitsu event of the year thus far, due to the COVID19 pandemic. The tournament came somewhat unannounced as the majority of the IBJJF’s schedule had been put on hold since March, therefore, adjustments had to be made.
“We [Gracie South Bay] had been active, competing in superfights, but once we heard the news that the Pan was back we returned to the gi.” This new focus on the gi came with an exciting new challenge, a return to the featherweight division. After a couple of years competing in the light and middleweight divisions, the reigning Pan Ams champ will be competing at 58,5 kilograms:
“I had decided in March that I would be making a return to featherweight. I haven’t competed at that weight in a while, but I feel it is a personal goal I wanted to set for myself. I asked my nutritionist, Nathalia Chantre, to start working towards featherweight, so she could help me with my food intake and my training,” Gabrielle explained, expanding with “Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do one jiu-jitsu session, one circuit training, and one Bulgarian bag training. Most of the time, in our jits training sessions we have tons of sparring, but we also work on agility and specific training on common positions as well as a ton of drilling“.
This new featherweight goal means there is a strong chance we will see Gabi McComb go up against the likes of Ffion Davies, Karen Antunes, Nathalie Ribeiro, Gabriela Fechter, to name a few. A fantastic prospect for fans of forward-moving grappling, which we hope to see very soon.
To keep your eyes on Gabi McComb and her day-to-day life, follow her on Instagram at @gabimcbjj .