Get know the connection between Atlântico Sul Cup – one of the most remembered competitions by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community, which had its first edition 20 years ago, in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro – and the US Open, the traditional American competition, held in California since 1996.
A few BJJ Who participated on the historical tournament:
Atlântico Sul Cup had an indefinable something that no other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition was able to relive ever again. Held outdoors in a fancy address, under the magical sunset of Rio’s afternoon, CAS (initials in Portuguese) attracted an audience that had just left the beach and went directly to a luxurious set of buildings near the sea-shore in Barra. That group of buildings lent its name to the event and provided the venue for the stands and the fighting area.
You can say that Atlântico Sul Cup is one of the main events of the pre-Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation era, founded in 1994. The combats promoted by CAS generate passionate comments to this day. “Wallid vs Jean Jaques, Royler vs Carlson Gracie Jr, Gordo vs Alexandre Paiva, André Pederneiras vs Renzo Gracie, Fábio Gurgel vs Leo Dalla,” enumerates black-belt Cláudio França, organizer of CAS alongside José Carlos (aka Joe Moreira) and Marcus Vinícius.
“We loved Company Cup but unfortunately it ended leaving a void in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions,” Cláudio “Cabelo” recalls. “That’s why we had the initiative to organize the first Atlântico Sul Cup, in the mid ’80s. It was three days of championship with the kick-off around 5pm and the lights out by 1am. We had a 1,000-people grandstand and about 500 competitors. Of course you can’t compare it with the present World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship. The sport wasn’t as pervasive in those days; athletes did not think of fighting as a profession, they would all go there just to have fun.”
Wallid Ismail, one of the most popular fighters of the ’80s and ’90s, does not forget the tournament: “There were few graduated athletes and sometimes black-belts had to fight brown-belts. The fights would stop whenever it rained, it was all crazy. Was it glamorous? I was a country boy competing in a rich neighborhood such as Barra da Tijuca. I confess that I didn’t even know what glamor was in those days. I was a complete psychopath. It was do or die for me then.”
Dedé Pederneiras, another lead character of that time, sees CAS as a community event that mobilized Jiu-Jitsu fighters: “My feeling was that the event had no owners, it seemed like the competition was everybody’s. It was a different vibe; we used to cooperate in order to make things happen. Everyone would help one another,” says Pederneiras. “There was less game of interests,” Marcus Vinícius summarizes.
Second-hand mats from academies, volunteer referees, schedules and fights subject to change at any time, improvisations and lots of love for the martial arts. Those are ingredients that, once combined, result in the romantic and amateur way of doing things. A true school, so that the sport could get to the professionalism we see today and keep improving.
From the year of 1992 on, Atlântico Sul Cup was held on the parking lot of Fisilabor gym, also in Barra da Tijuca, right next door to the old venue. Cláudio França has the opinion that it was in the new place that the two best editions of CAS were held: “We kept outdoors and the view of Marapendi lagoon was even nicer. We also kept the strategy of having the Cup in December, the beginning of the summer. It was a hit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as profitable as people thought it was. I would earn a little something but it was impossible to make a living out of that. I had to conciliate it with my career as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teacher.”
The last edition of CAS happened in 1994. França says that another Cup (the soccer World Cup) would change his life. During a trip to Atlanta to cheer for Brazil, the black-belt found much better perspectives of living in the USA, to where he would move soon. Joe Moreira was already there. Marcus Vinícius would follow them later. It was the end of CAS.