2020 was the most difficult year ever for the BJJ community at large, with gyms all around the world being forced to close their doors in the face of fines, and many of them have struggled through that period, potentially unable to reopen ever again. Not just that but promotions themselves have also struggled under heavy restrictions, holding less events than ever before and having empty stands at the vast majority of them. The final nail in the coffin came when both the gi and no gi editions of the IBJJF World Championships were cancelled, and news broke that the ADCC World Championships 2021 would be delayed by a year. In the face of all these problems, here’s how the BJJ community ended 2020 in style:
The Danaher Death Squad
2020 saw two big promotions in the blue basement as both Ethan Crelinsten and Nicky Ryan were awarded with their black belts after solid competition results. News also broke that John Danaher was moving to Puerto Rico and taking his gym with him, so at least next year is looking promising for DDS. The two most prolific competitors in his stable, Gordon Ryan and Craig Jones, are both already committed to making the move, as is Nicky Rodriguez, Nicky Ryan, and Ethan Crelinsten. Now that they’ve set a tentative date of March for the opening of their new gym, the whole team can be happy about what they’ve achieved in 2020 while also looking forward to the future.
It was also a good year for promotions in California as some of the most impressive competitors at ATOS moved to the next level, most notably the Ruotolo brothers who both received their brown belts this year. Andy Murasaki also received his final belt promotion just before Christmas, and UFC Middleweight World Champion Israel Adesanya made the move to purple belt a little while earlier. Alongside these promotions, ATOS also finished the competitive year strong by emerging victorious in the team grappling tournament, Subversiv 4. Next year brings the opportunity for big things for the team as head coach Andre Galvao hinted at making his return to professional MMA, and Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa is planning on making his debut in the sport at the same time.
GB are such a huge organisation that they’ve always got things to be happy about, but this year saw a real team effort at Subversiv 3 where they came out on top of the tournament. They also gave out a high-profile promotion when Michelle Waterson received her brown belt after a victory over Angela Hill in the main event of UFC Vegas 10. A Gracie Barra legend, Romulo Barral, also made a return to the competitive mats this year and went 1-1 against top competitors on the F2W stage. With dozens of elite competitors all around the world, it’s all but guaranteed that GB will have plenty to look forward to next year as well.
The Rest of the World
Of course, there are a lot of things for BJJ competitors and coaches around the world to be angry about as 2020 ends, but there’s also a lot to be grateful for, and a lot to look forward to. This year should’ve brought a deeper appreciation for the sport to many, due to the length of time being forced to go without it. Athletes would normally have to wait until they age and begin to decline to truly appreciate being able to train at maximum capacity, but now we’ve all been given the opportunity to be grateful for that ability now. And of course, as the world starts to drive back towards normality, major competitions and high-level promotions will be able return more reliably, and smaller competitions will return for the average competitor too.