Play to Win, Not to NOT Lose
Worlds 2019 is officially in the books. Some made history, others didn’t. Some notable names had to bow out to their teammates to open up the path to the podium because the black belt bracketing left more questions than answers. Some got DQ’ed (even double DQ’ed), which had a huge impact on who made it to the quarters, semis, and final. And, most importantly, some came to fight and others came to not lose.
Without going into detail about some of the black belt matches on Saturday and Sunday, it was abundantly clear WHO came to fight and who came to not lose. While we understand that there is a lot at stake, and that the notoriety of fighting on finals day is every black belt’s dream; it is also every fan’s dream to watch an epic finals battle between the best of the best. After all, this is what we wait for all year and why the IBJJF has a points requirement for adult black belts to qualify for the Worlds. It literally is the best of the best. Or at least it should be.
Perhaps this may be why lower belt fights can be more fun to watch – because they always come to scrap. Nobody is coming to try to not lose. Lower belts, especially the blues and purples, are always hunting submissions and going for broke because there is no monetary value associated with their win – it is only about status and notoriety of becoming a “world champion.” They aren’t paying attention to the time or the number of advantages they have. Nor are they acting like they’re playing guard, forcing their opponent to continually work (but only to get the penalty for not being active). It appears that the less you know about the rules and playing around the rules, the more exciting those fights can become…
Now let that last statement sink in. This is probably one of the biggest reasons why people’s competitive styles change. Those who were super exciting to watch at the lower belt levels are snooze worthy at best at black because they are more concerned about not losing than winning and playing within the rules (especially now that most of them are certified IBJJF referees). Think about some of the more boring black belt fights you’ve seen at Worlds and go look up their past fights at purple or brown belt. Chances are, they were much more dynamic than they are now.
To be fair though, most of the Worlds 2019 finals did not disappoint – especially with matches like Aly vs Meregali, Monteiro vs Cintra, Bahiense vs Arges, and Marcio Andre vs Matheus Gabriel. Hopefully that energy will feed into Worlds 2020 where we’ll see more fighting, less double guard pulls, and less playing for advantages in the finals. Perhaps we will leave that up to the next generation of first year black belts such as Thalison Soares, Jonnatas Gracie, Ronaldo Junior, Italo Moura, Jonas Andrade, and Wilson Costa to shake things up in their respective divisions to force everyone to come to fight rather than to not lose.