The first ever ADCC trial was held in 2002, when athletes from all around North America met to determine who would earn an invite to the prestigious ADCC world championship in 2003. It was a groundbreaking event that changed the shape of professional grappling for decades to come, and established a precedent for all editions of the ADCC world championship moving forward. There was 4 ADCC world championships prior to the 2003 edition and all of them were done on an invite-only basis, but this decision paved the way for the current format that ADCC follows. In the modern era, grapplers can either be invited on the basis of their accomplishments or they can win a tough division full of dozens of the best grapplers in their continent.
It’s difficult to imagine a time without ADCC trials, because they dominate so much of the professional grappling news cycle during the build-up to a world championship. Not just that, but any BJJ competitor who’s looking to reach the highest level will spend a long time preparing for their edition of ADCC trials. The way ADCC trials work today, there are tournaments available in every continent for grapplers to compete in, but this wasn’t always the case. They’re also one of the key factors that separates ADCC from the IBJJF World Championship, creating such tough divisions full of international competitors.
Back in 2002 when the concept of the ADCC trial was first introduced, the reach was far smaller than it is today. The first edition was the North American trial and the following year would see the first European and South American trials. This is a far cry from today, when there are 8 ADCC trials events spread across the globe. Still, the first ever ADCC trial attracted some truly impressive competitors and it was clear the following year that the trials had been a success. Out of the 5 grapplers that qualified for ADCC 2003 from the North American trials, all but one of them made it through to at least the second round, Eddie Bravo famously shocked the world by submitting Royler Gracie, and most notably Dean Lister won gold in the absolute division.
This first ADCC trial in 2002 wasn’t the only edition to prove the concept though and the other 2 trials for ADCC 2003 were just as successful. The winners of the South American trial in 2003 were incredibly successful, with Marcio ‘Pe De Pano’ Cruz becoming the champion of the over 99kg division, while Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and Alexandre Ferreira took home the silver medals at under 88kg and 99kg respectively. It was immediately clear that trials were a fantastic way to discover top new talent and produce memorable moments, and that remains just as true today as it was then.
First ADCC Trial 2002 Winners
Under 66kg Division
Under 77kg Division
Under 88kg Division
Under 99kg Division
Over 99kg Division
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