For those of us who love Gi competition the Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge may be the most important news to come along in a long time. The Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge: A Look Forward:
At the rules meeting Tuesday night Rickson Gracie stated that the Budo Challenge was a very important milestone in his life. Firstly he it representing an effort to bring gi fighting to a much larger audience, and was designed to attract a larger fan base. Secondly, it was to provide an opportunity for gi competitors to earn both a decent living through gi style competition alone and to provide them with the “dignity, honor, and respect they deserve” (a theme he would often repeat throughout the days of production and backstage). Finally it was his intention to bring the sport back to it`s essence by encouraging competitors (and thus all practitioners) to bring the submission back to the sport, as opposed to searching for ways to win within the rules.
What is the Budo Challenge?
The Budo Challenge is a to be television show as well as a series of events and competitions. An event filmed in front of a live audience at the Olympic center on October 19th was an important part of the production of a Television Pilot designed for audiences all over the world, but the actual extent of the program goes much further than that. Competitors were given in depth interviews and extensive footage was taken of each competitor. When we arrived at the venue initially Rickson pulled Budo Challenge competitor Cameron Earle aside and explained to him that this was not only going to be an opportunity to showcase his skills, but to provide the audience with insights into his character and the motivations behind his warrior spirit. To that end, in addition to the interviews that took place on camera there will be plenty of touches added in port production that should increase the public`s awareness of the fighters, as well of rumors of animation involving all of the fighters that is to be added to the broadcast of the show that everyone seemed very excited about. Eventually if the pilot proves to be successful a “reality type show” following each of the fighters is planned, however the actual goal might be something more akin to Rickson own famous documentary “Choke” than MTV`s Real World.
Who are the Competitors?
The Budo Challenge is open to all competitors with a gi, and in particular sought out jiujitsu, judo, and sambo practitioners. There are currently six weight classes ranging in size from under 132 pound s to over 217 pounds with four competitors per division, and the competitors selected for the pilot represented the United States, Brazil, Japan and Europe respectively and each had an impressive list of credentials. The card took some weeks to finalize with the number of applications received, but actually wasn`t finalized until the last possible moments. At the rules meeting when the official bout order was announced many were surprised to see that the Brazilian competitors and the American competitors, probably perceived as the two favorites in each category, were slated to meet up in the first round of each division. Some of the first round match up to look forward to then included:
132 pounds: Bibiano Fernandez vs Eddie Sanchez150 pounds: Baret Yoshida vs Leo “Leozinho” Viera170 Pounds: Cameron Earle vs Marcelo Garcia192 Pounds: Mike Weaver vs Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza”217 Pounds: Xande Riberio vs Ginaldo Santana217 Pounds: Robert Drysdale vs (Competitor from Japan)Over 217 Pounds: Rafael Lovato Jr. vs Rolles Gracie
Alternates included Shane Rice, Andre Galvao and Saulo Riberio.
It should be noted that Rafael Lovato Jr. actually weighed in at 210 pounds, but moved up a weight class to avoid meeting teammate Xande Riberio.
The Budo Challenge rules varies greatly from standard gi or BJJ competition rules.
Each traditional point position (mount, passing the guard, takedowns, etc) was awarded one point each. In addition, reversals, such as escaping the mount to guard which are traditionally not awarded points were allowed one point as well. Submission attempts in which an opponent had to vigorously defend were worth three points. Negative points would be taken away in the case of refusing to engage an opponent, pulling to guard, and having the belt come undone. In addition negative points would be awarded for stalling EVERY fifteen seconds, but the points would be determined by one of the side judges. The score would not be displayed for the competitors to keep track of.
The competition was divided into three, rounds of three minutes each and if no submission occurred the winner would determined by the highest cumulative point total (with adjustments made for the negative points). In the event of a tie the match would be determined by an overtime period, and then a judge`s decision would be rendered.
All choke, arm and leg submissions were legal, however neck cranks and cervical locks were not. Slamming was allowed from the guard or to improve position, but not to escape a submission hold (honestly, this was the one rule that didn`t make sense to me).
The competitors seemed to really like the rules however and it made for some fast paced matches. Rafael Lovato Jr. remarked that these rules were perfect for him because it forced him to open up his game and believe in his jiujitsu.
The Production of the Event:
The Budo Challenge itself was held at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and several thousand competitors including a virtual who`s who of the martial arts world was in attendance. (Even though the event publicity was low key, if Rickson Gracie is throwing his full weight behind an event you`d better believe the martial arts world is going to take notice!) The staging and production was second to none and probably some of the highest ever for a gi competition. In fact two of the European competitors were heard to remark that they were not nervous about the event until they saw were there were to be fighting. From the raised stage to the entrances, everything about the event was attempting to take the sport to the next level. The actual event took quite a bit of time to actually run, but this was more afforded to the glitches in filming the actual event for television as opposed to running the event itself as all of the staging and what not took place with the home audience in mind.
The Results of the Event;
Although MUCH buzz has already been generated by the audience who witnessed the event, the official results won`t be released through the invited media until the event actually appears on television, which will hopefully be in a few weeks or months depending on who picks up the pilot. Suffice to say that much action took place on the mat and quite a few surprises emerged.
All of the fighters were well taken care with transportation and hotel provided for, and every competitor walked away with some amount of money in their pocket. Third place competitors (there were no bouts for third place) each earned $500 while second and third earned $2000 and $4000 respectively, with bonuses allocated for submission. Times the prize money total by six weight classes, and you realize that the budget far exceeded that of any other gi compeition to date with over $42,000 up for grabs for the fighters.
The status of the purchase of the pilot is still pending, however Rickson has already announced plans for six more Budo Challenge competitions over the coming year. The next competition will have eight men per bracket, and the following one will likely have sixteen men, and once again all competitors will walk away with something in their pockets, and the already considerable prize money will increase.
For fans of the Gi, the Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge is perhaps the most exciting and important news to come along ever. By elevating gi competition to the level of other professional sport with dignity, class and honor Rickson has accomplished a major goal . As Rickson said, tt would definitely be a dream come true for everyone if someday if kids could look up to their idols from the Budo Challenge and said I want to be a gi fighter.