In less than two weeks, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) will be back in Irvine, Calif., for the 2012 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships. This will be the third time in Irvine since moving from its previous location in Dominguez Hills.

With only a short time left before the event, the excitement is building as the list of names gunning for another chance at the coveted Pan gold medal continues to grow. So far, world champions such as the Mendes Brothers, Bernardo Faria and Pablo Santos are listed and expected to be competing along with many others.

It is still too early to give you, the reader, a full preview of who to expect on the top of the podium in the end, but let’s take a quick look at who and what has made the Pan’s such a significant event on the jiu-jitsu calendar.

At black belt, there is never a shortage of epic match-ups.

If you ever go to any random local jiu-jitsu tournament, you may be lucky to find two or three black belt match-ups, with none being of star quality. At the Pan’s though, there are World Champions left and right and there is never a lack of great talent going head-to-head in Irvine. The Pan has been host to some amazing bouts including: Roger Gracie vs. Xande Riberio (2006), Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Fernando “Terere” (2004), Rubens “Cobrinha” vs. Rafael Mendes (2009.) No matter what the name, when at the Pans you are bound to see nothing but the best as there will always been legends re-established and newcomers born.

It is the ultimate buildup for the Worlds.

If you are a serious jiu-jitsu competitor or even a fan, there is no denying that the Worlds in Long Beach, Calif., in June are the biggest jiu-jitsu event of the year. The Pan’s provide the biggest buildup and create the intriguing headlines heading into Long Beach. At the Pan’s we are shown just who should be labeled the favorites going into the Worlds and what match-ups the fans should look forward to seeing once again in June. The Pan championships create the rivalries that make the Worlds such a hyped up event. Roger Gracie and Xande Riberio’s rivalry began at the Pan in 2006 when they each won one match against each other, which only intensified the Worlds two months later when the two met again and Xande came away as absolute World champion. In 2011 a similar story went down as Rodolfo Vieira drubbed Bernardo Faria twice creating an intriguing headline going into the Worlds. Even though it all counts in Long Beach, the road to the Worlds goes through Irvine.

The Pans provide the great surprises of the year.

When the World’s come around, usually there aren’t too many great surprises, and that’s because the surprises come at the Pans. If you don’t count the Europeans, there aren’t too many huge tournaments leading up to the Pans to help you figure out who should be the favorite going in. Sometimes there is a newcomer that takes everyone by surprise and exceeds all expectations. Like in 2010, three names catapulted themselves to stardom at the Pans after being overlooked beforehand by the majority of the jiu-jitsu community.

As a brown belt, Zak Maxwell was already a World Champion but did not receive too much recognition or attention, but that all changed in Irvine. Zak not only won his lightweight category, but he ran through everyone in the absolute to take home two gold medals and leave everyone simply in awe.

Kayron Gracie was well-known, but before his run at the 2010 Pan, he was mostly known for never meeting expectations. He floundered from time-to-time at the lower ranks, but in Irvine, something clicked and he went on to become middleweight champion of the black belt category, beating Sergio Moraes and Abmar Barbosa in the process. In one tournament Gracie went from being an also-ran to a legitimate contender for a World title.

Lastly, in 2010, it was Bernardo Faria who ended up being the biggest surprise of them all. Although extremely talented, Faria went relatively unnoticed for most of his career until the Pans in 2010. In Irvine he put the World on notice as he won his weight and the absolute at black belt and becoming the next big name in modern day jiu-jitsu. From there, Faria carried that momentum and won the World Championships beating two-time absolute champion Xande Riberio to accomplish the feat.

So as you can see, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for this year’s Pan tournament. Who or what are you most excited about heading into this championship? Comment below and let yourself be heard! Osss!

Photo: Bernardo Faria (Gracie Mag)

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor

Gianni Grippo is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia and trains at the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City. Besides being a big fan of the sport, Gianni is also an avid competitor and has ranked among the best in the World from blue to brown belt winning 6 IBJJF World titles and 7 Pan Championships. Still at 21, Gianni looks to continue to compete for many years to come as his main goals are to win the World championships at black belt and win the ADCC title.