Sacramento, CA – Relson Gracie’s inaugural event, the California Championship, in the Gracie Pro Am Circuit came with much controversy and fanfare but left town without trace. The event was held at the Inderkum High School in Sacramento, CA featuring amateur Gi, No-Gi and Professional No-Gi divisions. The height of the event was Saturday’s Black Belt Open featuring Andre Freitas, Toby Staley, Matheus Andre, Rodrigo Ranieri and Matt Baker. Rodrigo Ranieri, the smallest competitor in the Black Belt Open, won the division by defeating Matheus Andre with a toe-hold. The Black Belt Open matches were exciting, fast paced, and examples of the of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Relson Gracie desires to promote with the Gracie Pro Am Circuit.
The tournament started on time, was well organized, and put the competitors at center stage. Relson stayed true to his word providing a staff of Black Belts to referee every match from the kid’s division up. Every match had two Black Belt referees. The mat area included six full-sized rings featuring Zebra mats. The warm-up area consisted of two full-sized rings in a separate room for the competitors.
Disputes were handled professionally. Relson personally reviewed the video tape of a brown belt match disputed by 2010 Pan Ams winner, Ernest Mello. During the match, Mello stopped because he felt his opponent tap. The referee did not see the tap, and the match was ordered to continue. Mello lost the position and eventually lost the match on points. When Mello disputed the match, Black Belt referee, Andre Freitas, guided him through the dispute process. Relson reviewed the tape, but the camera did not clearly indicate the tap, and the ruling on the mat stood. Mello was happy with the process but adamant in his belief his opponent tapped. Mello faced the same opponent in the open weight division and won on points.
The only thing missing from the event was the competitors. The turnout for the event was low. For most of the two days, only three of the six rings were active. When asked about the turnout, Relson responded, “The number of competitors is not the focus of my tournament. The event was safe.The matches were good. Everybody had a good time. That’s what it’s about.” Relson’s motive is to spread the Jiu-Jitsu he learned from his father, Grandmaster Helio Gracie. Relson was on hand for the entire event watching and greeting every competitor as they entered and exited the competition area. Relson even used his own video camera to record several matches himself.
Overall, the competitors were happy with the rules and seemed genuinely excited to see Relson taking a personal interest in their matches. If you missed the California Championship, you missed a good Jiu-Jitsu tournament. Relson is determined to push forward indicating the next event on the Gracie Pro Am Circuit will be held this November in Ohio.