Greater Midwest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling Championships 11/1/02
When I left my home in California Friday morning it was about 70 degrees. When I got to Minnesota later that night, it was about 20 degrees. I was dropped off at the hotel, and upon checking in the manager told me that the pool would be open at 8:00 AM that morning. Upon noticing I was looking at him like he had three heads, he explained it was an indoor pool. Still as anyone who is a native of California would tell you, folks in Minnesota are just a little bit different. People actually do sound like they did in the movie Fargo for example. And you`ve got to wonder what they were thinking when they elected former pro wrestler and actor Jesse "the Body" Ventura as governor. What I had come out to see however, was what the grappling scene in the Midwest looked like. I was invited to check out the Greater Midwest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling Championships. All right, I`ll spare you the trouble and tell you I was extremely impressed by the level of grappling in the Midwest. Makes sense as you combine a great base in wrestling being the heartland of America, plus quality instruction, plus the fact that during the winter months there`s not much to do other than train, or you`re going to develop some talent. Time the rest of the world found out about it. However, the tournament name "Greater Midwest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling Championships is simply too long. Even if you make it an acronym (G.M.B.J.J.S.W.C) it`s still a mouthful. From now on, I`m simply going to refer to the tournament as "The Midwesties". Previous to The Midwesties head instructor of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy Greg Nelson was awarded his black belt by Pedro Sauer -the first American to be so ranked by Sauer. Greg has had a remarkable career highlighted by a long history in competition in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, and he has such stand out students as Sean Sherk and Dave Menne. Furthermore, he has been fairly active in his community as well, sponsoring and working with a number of charitable organizations. Greg was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin`s Lymphoma Cancer earlier this year and is now fighting a different sort of battle. His students organized this year`s tournament, and subsequent benefit dinner as a benefit for their coach. Talking with many of them it was obvious Greg had affected their lives. When I congratulated Greg on his promotion, he seemed a bit embarrassed by the attention. He preferred to talk about promoting the sport and the Midwest, and later on we got into a conversation on what he`s going to do when he beats cancer. The Midwesties boasted twice as many competitors as the previous year`s tournament and boasted competitors that came from as far away as Kansas City and Canada. Aside from the super fight participants, notables such as Sean Sherk, Dave Menne and Pedro Sauer were in attendance. The day started off with a large children`s division (see Match of the Year for one of my favorite bouts I`ve captured this year, made more remarkable by the fact the competitors are brother and sister!), and a smaller women`s division before moving unto the gi competition. There were mainly white and blue belts participating, as well as a few purple belts, but everyone showed a high degree of technical prowess. Many of these competitors would later compete in the no-gi division, which also brought out competitors just for that portion. At this point the wrestling background of many participants was very obvious. Although many faces were new to me, there were many standout competitors, including Damien Hirtz who won both the Purple Belt Division (he would be awarded his purple the next day) and the no-gi absolute division. There were also three excellent super fights. The first pitted Randy Erdman from Team Menne against Ironheart crown veteran Jeff Curran. (There was talk of the Curse of Curran as the original participant of the bout, Jens Pulver pulled out due to a knee injury). This bout was a very close won, with Curran winning via a takedown in the final moments to make the score 2-0. The second bout turned out to be quite a surprise, as veteran Henry Matamoros took on newcomer Nenad Dragojlovich. I`m sure plenty of people are scratching their collective heads (including myself) as to who exactly Nenad is, all I can say is watch out! This was definitely an exciting bout as both fighters have a somewhat unorthodox style. Nenad nearly finished off Matamoros from the back, by the crafty veteran escaped. Nenad takes this one by points. The final super fight had MMA star Jeremy Horn against Macaco Team brown belt Caio Malta. Jeremy Horn gave up a bit of size and Malta showed a little mat rust, but this was still a very exciting, back and forth bout. The score was 6-6 about 7 minutes in when it was obvious that Caio was getting tired. Horn took full advantage of this and secured the choke to earn the tap out victory. The tournament was run very smoothly and everyone was very friendly. This tournament is only going to grow with time. Afterwards I was treated to a night on the town of Minneapolis were I sawâ€¦. â€¦I`m not going to get into what I saw. But I will say I look forward to coming to future Midwesties.