There were two sides to the story this past Sunday night at the fifth Copa Podio event, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the world famous Tijuca Tenis Club.

One side of the story has to do with the incredible action that took place, and how it is true that styles make match-ups. In fact, the event was very unpredictable and quite thrilling.

However, the other side of the story is a bit more unpleasant to the jiu-jitsu community. Why? Because one of the most popular and “professional” events in jiu-jitsu today still has a lot of work to do before it can be considered a strong and “professional” show.

But first, the good-side to this two-headed tale…

Although the fifth Copa Podio Grand Prix may not have been as stacked with competitors as the previous few, it surely was one of the most entertaining and unpredictable shows in the series. Styles made match-ups, and it was impossible to define who really was the best that day until the final whistle sounded.

Guys who were considered potential favorites, such as Renato Cardoso and Alexandre Ceconi, had horrendous days. Those two men combined for only one win and did not come even close to the top of the standings. Ceconi lost all four of his bouts—to Felipe Pena (7-0), Davi Ramos (toehold), Kit Dale (2-0) and Diogo Moreno (2-0). On the other side, Cardoso had a good start by submitting Travis Stevens with a triangle, but from there it was all downhill. He was handily beaten by brown belt Manuel Diaz and fresh black belts Paulo Miyao and Jaime Canuto.

While the favorites struggled, the big underdogs proved that they could take on the challenge and hold firm. Olympic judoka Travis Stevens was able to make it to the semifinals without even landing a single takedown and still managed to surprise many. After his loss to Cardoso, Stevens, who hardly ever competes in jiu-jitsu events, beat former purple and brown belt World champions Manuel Diaz and Jaime Canuto. Then, in one of his final preliminary matches against the favored Paulo Miyao, Stevens pulled off the nearly unthinkable and almost took the reigning brown belt absolute champion’s back with an acrobatic guard pass attempt. So, although Stevens went on to lose by a single advantage, he left his mark and proved that he belonged with the best.

Besides the disappointing Cardoso and Ceconi and the surprising Stevens, Miyao was the real attraction of the show. He came in as the lightest competitor by over 20 pounds. Despite the size difference, Miyao performed with no fear in taking on challengers of all sizes and styles. He finished his day with four wins, one loss and one draw. His biggest win came against Renato Cardoso, whom he choked from the back, and his only loss came in the semifinals to Diogo Moreno. In the end, Miyao came in third after a hard-fought rematch against Stevens where it was once again decided by a single advantage point as time expired.

Ultimately, however, the man of the day was Felipe Pena. Quiet and steady, the Gracie Barra star worked through all his opponents without too much difficulty and went into the final undefeated. In the finale, he faced off with Diogo Moreno and got off to a super-fast start, taking Moreno’s back within the first minute. Moreno hung tough and fought off the submission and the back control, but just holding off Pena wouldn’t help him defeat Pena, and so the near-22-year-old from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, became the third-ever champion of the Copa Podio event.

Beyond Pena, Clark Gracie and Leandro “Lo” Nascimento also stood out. Both won their superfights, with the former submitting Diego Borges with a collar choke while an omoplata was in place and the latter defeating Claudio Calasans 6-0 in their no-gi bout.

And now, the ugly side of the event…

For a $22 live-stream pay-per-view, one would expect a good quality event that satisfies an audience that has been hearing nothing but great things about this show. The Copa Podio did a great job preparing us for the event, letting the fans know who was participating, where to find the live stream and so on. However, once the big lights came on and it was time for action, the quality of the event crumbled to the ground.

While introducing the athletes, they began to have apparent power outages—just a sign of things to come. Then, during the first match, the stream began to slow, then stop, then suddenly crashed, leaving the fans staring at a blank screen. Ten minutes later, it resumed, only for the site to crash yet again. The crashes continued on a fairly consistent basis for the entire evening. This caused delays in the matches, pushing the expected times of matches back much further than previously expected and forcing the hardcore fans to spend their entire day literally pulling their hair out by the root—not for the nail-biting matches that took place, but for every time the site would crash right in the middle of a match. Also, to top it off, the stream looked like it was using the same cameras that were used back in 1997 when Renzo Gracie took on Eugenio Tadeu in a bare-knuckled fight in Tijuca.

In the end, this does not look good for jiu-jitsu. Today, the Copa Podio is considered one of the sport’s most professional and well-organized events. If this is the most professional event, then many will never want to know what’s below this. The way the event was handled showed that jiu-jitsu has a long way to go before it can stand with other martial arts such as wrestling or judo. And for those who are still fighting for jiu-jitsu to be in the Olympics soon, don’t hold your breath on that one.

The athletes and the fights are great, there’s no doubt about that, but a lot that goes on around the competitor needs to change if jiu-jitsu ever wants to earn credibility amongst the other solidified sports.

Photo: Felipe Pena (L) (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.