In an interesting turn of events at the 2010 No Gi Worlds, three Americans won Gold in their adult black belt divisions. What made two of those wins even sweeter was that they were won by a professor and his student.
Rafael Lovato Jr. and his student and first black belt, Justin Rader of Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu, won side by side at the Worlds on Sunday, and couldn’t be happier about it. “My first black belt, Justin Rader, and I won the Worlds as teacher and student. It’s a beautiful thing. We both fought our way to the finals.”
Lovato had three matches in the heavyweight black belt division. The first he was winning 6-2, and then his opponent was disqualified for arguing with the referee. His second match was the highly anticipated rematch against Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida of Gracie Barra. Lovato says he’s lost every time they’ve fought, but he was finally able to pull out the victory this time. “I would have liked a more decisive win. We were tied one advantage point to one advantage point and I got the decision.”
In the finals, he was paired up with another Gracie Barra great, Roberto “Tussa” Alencar. “This was the fourth time we’ve fought,” Lovato says, “I’ve beat him every time, but he’s won the heavy weight division every year, and I decided to fight at my natural weight this year, so I was really looking forward to our fight.”
Once again, the match was close, with time running out and a scoreboard that read, “two advantage points to two advantage points.” “I got the decision,” Lovato says, “I feel like I was the aggressor in the match. Once again, I would have liked a more decisive victory, but it’s ok. Those guys get all my respect. They are tough competitors and I have a lot of respect for them.”
Before Lovato’s matches, his student Justin Rader was tearing up the scene in the adult black belt featherweight division. He had three matches in his division. The first he won 14-0. His semi-finals match was against Rodrigo Ranieri. “I knew that was going to be a tough match,” Rader says, “I won in the final minute and a half. I won with a guard pass. I was losing the whole fight up until then.”
In the final, Rader faced Carlos Holanda of Checkmat BJJ. “I didn’t have any idea about him, so I just played my game” Rader said, “He got an advantage… I’m not sure how that happened, but I didn’t let it get to me. He’s so flexible. I started to wonder what I could do. I wasn’t able to find my game.”
Eventually, Rader took a chance and threw his whole body into an ankle lock and squeezed as hard as he could. “I sat back and tried to lock it in. I couldn’t tell if I was hurting him or not, but I put it in as hard as I could and squeezed. I got an advantage. He had my leg locked so tight I couldn’t move. Then time ran out and we were tied.”
As the competitors kneeled on the mats while the judges conferred, it was clear that Rader thought he’d won the match. “I thought, ‘I put pressure on him the whole time. I really believed I won. I couldn’t see it going any other way.”
When the referee stood the two men up, it was Rader’s arm that was raised signifying the win. “It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt,” Rader says, “My father got me into martial arts when I was four; I’ve been with Rafael since I was 12. We’ve been together for 12 years now.”
Lovato and Rader won together at the Worlds in 2007, but Rader was a purple belt at the time, while Lovato was a black belt. This time, they both won as black belts, and the feelings were high, “I just knew it would happen again at black belt,” Rader says, his eyes lighting up, “I’m so happy for him (Lovato) as well. I can’t describe how I feel.” Rader says his next goal is to become the Gi World Champion.
As for Lovato, who’s been there, done that, he says, “It was a great day. My team did very well. Now I can say, ‘I’m the only American to win both the Gi and No-Gi World Championships.’ It really felt awesome to be back on top of the podium today. I want to thank On the Mat, Tap Out, Nutrient Technology, and all my students at OK BJJ, my wife and my family at home.”