Music is pumping and the pyrotechnics are fizzing, while the modern day gladiators parade down the centre prominade to introduce a new challenger to the professional grappling scene, introducing RAW Grappling Championship.
The Press Conference
RAW Grappling Championship is a new professional grappling competition that suddenly popped onto the UK scene. It had no real history of who was organising it, apart from the connection to RAW Performance Gym and NOVO BJJ in Hastings.
We arrived at the hired out events room at a bar in the O2 arena and immediately felt a buzz unlike anything we’ve experienced. The room was buzzing with staff in “RAW Grappling Championship” shirts and athletes posing to have their official pictures taken, this felt different to other professional grappling events I’ve attended.
“I really think this sport has the potential to go big,” said Damon, the organiser of RAW Grappling Championship. “It’s growing at a rapid pace and I really want the athletes to be paid boxing money for competing”.
We take our seats and the press conference was led by MMA colour commentator Chris Hoekstra, who’s voice has been featured on KSW, One Championship, Bellator and many many more.
The press conference featured a few fun sound bites, mostly coming from Tom Bracher, who accused Lucas Barbosa of running from him after Tom was moved to the Grand Prix after he was scheduled to compete with Hulk on the upcoming superfight. “You look like a retired Mario Brother,” Bracher snaps at Bracher as Barbosa calls him a white belt who needs to wait his turn.
After some questions from Hoekstra and the press to the athletes we were free to enjoy the rest of the evening, and get ready for tomorrow.
RAW Grappling Championship has already created a buzz with it’s eight man Grand Prix, featuring ADCC stars such as Yuri Simones, Josh Hinger & Patrick Gaudio, mixed in with British talent such as rising star Jed Hue, Bradley Hill, Taylor Pearman, Tom Bracher and Steven Hill.
On top of this we also had two superfights featuring former Bellator champion Rafael Lovato Jr going up against Adam Wardzinki and ATOS’ Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa versus Poland’s Gerard Labinski.
The event was an early start, with two undercard grand prix’s featuring some of the best blue and purple belts from the UK and Europe.
We arrive at the Indigo at the O2, a venue which has also been host to Cage Warriors and Polaris.
11am rolls around and the event kicks off with an athlete parade, 16 nervous blue belts and purple belts race across the cental promenade that cuts the crowd in two. Music pumping, lights flashing and sparks shoot to the sky.
The blue belts and purple belts put on an excellent show for the early morning crowd, and highlights include an excellent buggy choke from Devhonte Johnson-Rose, which would pick up submission of day prize.
The grand prix’s were eventually won by two of the lightest competitors in each division. Seventeen year old Owen Jones from ZR Team and Apex Jiu-Jitsu would claim the blue belt crown after submitting Devhonte Johnson-Rose. While last-minute replacement Hejraat Rashid, also from the same teams, would claim the purple belt prize.
If this is what today’s generation of competitive blue belts and purple belts have to offer, then the future is bright for this sport.
The Main Event
The 8 man black belt grand prix featured some of the biggest names in the sport, competing for a cash prize of £5000 and a trophy that anyone would have touble fitting into their suitcase.
The first match that featured Gaudio and Bracher did not dissapoint, the two go toe to toe for the full ten minutes, meaning they went into a two minute point round. The two minutes finish with Gaudio “just” securing the back for the alotted time to, all to vocal objection by Bracher and his team, Gaudio is the first to proceed to the semi finals.
In the proceeding matches Jed Hue puts up an exciting defence against Simoes’ relentless pressure, but ultimately falls to the overtime points round. Bradley Hill struggles against Josh Hinger at the beginning of his match but scrambles to the back of Hinger at the end of the overtime points round, but is unable to secure the hooks, giving Hinger the decision.
Finally Taylor Pearman, who is known for an agressive style, proves himself as deadly as ever with a leg lace heel hook on Hill in under 30 seconds.
Hinger and Gaudio was a grueling affair. Hinger attacked early in regulartion time with a deep heelhook which made Gaudio grimice, however it would be Gaudio to come out on top between the two after winning in overtime. Pearman would also wow the crowd with his impressive jiu-jitsu but would be ultimately overpowered by Simoes size and passing ability.
The final was set with Simoes and Gaudio to face off in the final.
But first, the superfights.
The first superfight saw Lucas Barbosa effectively submit Gerard Labinski with an armbar seven minutes into their fifteen minute match.
While Rafael Lovato Jr struggled to pass Adam Wardzinski’s world class butterfly guard but wins in overtime after Wardzinski is penalised by pulling guard without grips.
Finally we come down to our thrid place matchup between Hinger and Pearman. Once against Pearmans Jiu-Jitsu was world class but ultimately it was Hinger who was able to eek out the win with his
The final between Gaudio and Simoes was less like a grappling match and more like two stags battling for dominance. Clubbing collar ties and head clashes were heard all around the Indigo at the O2 and both athletes looking drained from their previous matches giving everything they had for the cash prize.
The two go into overtime with neither of them able to score points on eachother, with the final decision going to the referees, who award Simoes the win, netting him £5000 and a big ass trophy. Taylor Pearman would also win best submission of the night with his first round vistory which also netted him a cool £1000.
With the event over, it was time to digest what had just happened. After tonight’s event if there’s one thing we can be certain of, is that the future is bright for professional grappling shows in the UK.
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