Cole Abate has continued his incredible run of success on his journey through the coloured belt ranks by winning his first major IBJJF tournament at brown belt, the IBJJF Pan Championship 2023. While most of the attention at any major tournament is usually on the adult black belt competitors, it always pays to keep an eye on the young coloured belts competing too. After all, these athletes will be the next generation of stars to emerge in the next few years. Every now and then, one of them managed to skip ahead of the natural progression and compete at the highest levels of the sport despite not yet being promoted to black belt.
Abate is a perfect example of this, as the Art of Jiu-Jitsu product has been on everyone’s radar for quite a few years now. Then he did the unthinkable in 2021 and won the North American ADCC Trials as a 16 year-old blue belt, immediately making a huge impact. He was promoted to purple belt shortly after that monumental achievement, and he immediately became the favourite to win any tournament he entered at that level. He wasn’t able to make it through the opening round of the 66kg division at ADCC 2022 but the writing was already on the wall, Abate was going to be a permanent fixture at the highest levels of the sport for years to come.
He returned to major competition with a vengeance at the beginning of 2023, winning the IBJJF European Championship and getting promoted to brown belt on the podium. Despite only being a brown belt for a matter of weeks, Abate dominated in his first performance at that level when he took home two gold medals at the IBJJF Los Angeles Open as a warmup for this event. The IBJJF Pan Championship was the first major tournament that Cole Abate had entered at brown belt and he didn’t disappoint, he managed to submit four of his five opponents and took home gold in an incredibly tough division at lightweight.
Cole Abate gave an interview to the official IBJJF staff on site at the Pan Championship 2023, and gave his thoughts on what it felt like to compete in his first major tournament at brown belt: