Last week we unveiled the stage curtains of Polaris Invitational, to reveal one of the men behind this incredible grappling enterprise. Today, on the 2nd part of our ‘The Masterminds Behind Polaris’ tour, we bring you another key element in the smooth runnings of jiu jitsu’s biggest invitational event: Gareth Dummer.
Dummer has been submersed in the sport for many years, working on a number of levels to improve not only the quality of jiu jitsu in his country, but also use it to benefit his community. Having known Gareth for the best past of 10 years, I remember admiring his work ethic from the very beginning. Work that had him driving a 180 mile journey from the coast of Wales to London – England regularly, in order to train at our gym back in 2007. At the time jiu jitsu wasn’t as widely developed in Wales as it is today, and much of that progress is owed to Gareth.
A black belt under the accomplished Pedro Bessa, Dummer was originally into kung fu, moving on to ju jutsu (traditional/Japanese style) at the age of 18 by influence of his cousin Spencer. In trying to test his grappling ability, Gareth decided to enter a newaza/groundwork type tournament. That experience proved to be a life changing event:
“I thought: ‘Well, I’ve done a bit of grappling so I’ll enter the advanced category’. I got submitted in 20 seconds by a Brazilian who had just arrived in the UK, his name was Pedro Bessa – he was a brown belt back then.”
Bessa was a former student of Luis Dagmar, as well as Eduardo Telles and Terere, being regarded at the time as a rising talent in our sport, following his Sao Paulo state title. Gareth recognised he was onto something special from the get-go: “I knew straight away that I had to train with this guy. He was light years ahead of anything I had been exposed to.” Then starting a long lasting relationship that stands to this day.
The more Gareth spent time doing jiu jitsu, the more his interest for grappling grew. That interest turned into passion, something he tried to pass on to the younger generations by teaching grappling to children raised in an underprivileged area in Port Talbot. This newfound coaching vocation would lead to another epic change in Dummer’s life: “I was quite a gi pimp back then and would always import the coolest BJJ gis from Brazilian Fight Wear or BudoVideos. The parents would come up to me and say their kids really wanted a cool Gi like mine as they were wearing basic Judo Gi’s. When I told them they were $300+ they simply couldn’t afford it. So that’s when myself and Lee [Jones] – the other half of Tatami, got together and said ‘why don’t we start looking into making our own?’ It snowballed from there.”
Indeed it did. Since launching Tatami back in 2008, Gareth and Lee have become two of Wales’ most impressive entrepreneurs. By 2014 they were among the country’s top 15 fastest-growing businesses, this year announcing another big expansion and earning (just two days ago – Oct. 21st) the award for sustainable growth during the Wales Fastest Growing Business Awards. Truly a booming success story.
For years being on the mats and sidelines of tournaments around the United Kingdom, Gareth made several friends in the local grappling community. This included fellow jiu jitsu businessmen, Matt Benyon and Ben Tong of Scramble with whom Dummer joined forces to develop Polaris Invitational.
Sharing similar ideas and goals for an event, the Tatami + Scramble merge made sense, but running a promotion the grandeur of Polaris was no small feat. From organising venues, to streams, filming crews, marketing and the always hard to pair dream match-ups, the effort put forward has been colossal – “I will always remember me and Matt [Benyon] chatting a few days later [after Polaris 1], still gobsmacked that we pulled something like that off.” – Said Gareth, who believes submission only was the best way to start-up: “we felt that [sub only] was the most exciting format for the show and what the fans wanted to see. Everyone loves the big submission finish. It also opened up the show to more submission only focused fighters, rather that your ‘sport’ or points focused fighters”.
Though still refraining from a rigid point system, Polaris has now included a judging format for their 4th event, happening on the 29th of October, 2016: “We are now moving to a judging system. It’s going to add a new dynamic to the show”. To take on the responsibility, Gareth and his crew have brought in an all-star judges panel, including Oliver Geddes, Dave Onuma, Nick Brooks, Marc Goddard and former UFC welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy.
Excitement is a big part of what Gareth wants to bring to the sport through Polaris, and why he believes professional jiu jitsu is such a powerful movement: “it allows the fans a platform to watch matches they might never get the chance to see. That’s why personally I like us getting high profile MMA guys on the show, it adds that dimension that you would not get in your usual grappling tournament. I also think it gives the athletes the worldwide stage they deserve to be on, have all focus and attention on them for those 15 minutes”.
Gareth and the Polaris crew have been working hard to provide just that at the Polaris 4 event taking place in one week’s time. The show is stacked with big names of the IBJJF, sub only and mixed martial arts circuits. An outstanding cast that would hold up against any card ever put together in a professional grappling event.
Taking place at the Lighthouse venue in Poole, England. A town not too far from the Welsh borders with England, Dummer hopes to see you there on October 29, cheering for your favourite grappler.
POLARIS 4: Tickets available here.
Preliminary card: 4pm (UK time)
Main show: 6:30pm (UK time)