World No. 1 black belt upset at 10th Copa de Marianas

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Hundreds of Brazilian jiu jitsu competitors and fans packed the Father Duenas Phoenix Center for the 10th Copa de Marianas BJJ tournament. For the first time ever, the Copa featured a women’s black belt division, highlighted by world No. 1 ranked Talita Alencar and including Kristina Barlaan; USA, 2016 European Open Champion, China’s Emma Xiong, the 2017 Brown Belt World Champion and 2015 Purple Belt World Champion and the first female Chinese black belt, Tassia Pimenta from Brazil, who fights out of Gracie Barra Black Belt. “To bring these guys over, it puts Guam on the map. Guam has always competed off island, but in this case, now the world is coming to Guam.” said Fury Promotions owner Steve Shimizu.

The stacked brackets included local favorite MMA stars, Deep Impact heavyweight champ Roque Martinez, Bellator MMA’s J.J. “Superman” Ambrose, the husband and wife team of Mike and Brogan Sanchez, Ryan Bustamante, James Roberto and so many more (see results box on Page 28 for complete results).

Kid or adult, white belt or black, it didn’t matter, the 2017 Copa shined brightly, not only as the region’s premier BJJ event, but it showed the world what the Guam ground game was all about and it was awesome!

Alencar vs. Barlaan

For the top invited female guests world rankings were not on the line, rather, the four femme fatales were battling it out for a winner-take-all $4,000 combined cash prize. On their way to the finals, Alencar worked her way past Xiong, 7-0 in 7:35. Barlaan applied an ankle lock on Pimenta, at the match’s 9:25 mark, forcing the Brazilian to tap.

Besides a whole wad of cash on the line, at stake was the first-ever Copa de Marianas female black-belt belt, and there would be an upset. After 10 minutes of fighting, neither Alencar nor Barlaan could force the other to submit and the fight went to referee’s decision and was awarded to a ‘floating-on-air’ Barlaan.

The two had faced each other two times before in competition, with Alencar coming out on top both times, but not this time. “I’ve lost to her in the finals at pans this year and the semifinals of worlds this year,” shared Barlaan. “Today was my own validation of myself. I’m validating what I’ve always known. I know that I have the ability to beat anyone,” she added.

“I’m so excited. It’s such a big thing being the inaugural champion for the Copa de Marianas female division fifty-five kilos,” rejoiced the California Bay Area-based brawler, of Philippine descent. “My parents are from the Philippines; I actually have some family members I’ve never met before that were here to watch me compete. I didn’t know I had family on Guam, so that’s really cool,” beamed Barlaan.

Seeing herself as her sport’s ambassador, Barlaan hopes that her presence had a positive impact on those in attendance, especially for the young, curious girls on hand. “I’m really hoping that our presence here is enough,” said Barlaan. “It’s really exciting to be part of this community.”

Throughout the bout it appeared that Barlaan was in trouble, several times, especially near the end of the fight, with Alencar having hoisted her up and was applying “the squeeze.” “It doesn’t matter how hard a person is holding me, or how much pressure they’re putting on me, or how fast the pace is, I have it in my head that I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep going until I get what I want,” said the champ.

J.J. ‘Superman’ Ambrose

In the 181+ adult-gi brown belt division, Spike 22/Steel Athletics’ J.J. “Superman” Ambrose won the gold medal against Purebred Academy’s David Harris. Ambrose also won gold in the adult-no-gi 176-191 weight division, beating teammate Robert Alvarez in the finals. “I’m always happy to see the Guam competition going at this level,” said Ambrose. “It’s really cool that the Marianas Open and the Copa gives us a chance to compete, without having to go off island. Because, as you know, it’s very expensive,” he added.

Ambrose, who recently signed a contract with Bellator and will be making his big-league debut later this year or early next year, sees the Copa as a venue where he can sharpen his skills and compete at a high level locally. “This tournament gives me a chance to shake off some of the rust and it preps me for in-ring jitters I would have in the cage,” said Ambrose.

“In MMA, jiu jitsu is one of the greatest tools you’ll ever need. For the guys that compete in Bellator, UFC, this is what they use to keep their blade sharp,” said Ambrose.

The 2017 Copa de Marianas was presented by 76 / Circle K and sponsored by Bank of Guam, Aloha Maid, Fokai Industries, the Stations of KUAM, Paradise Fitness, Crust Pizzeria, Pacific Solar & Volotaics, Mat’kadot Engravers, The White House | Productions, Affiliated Lifestyles, Shut Up & Fish, Strictly Tees, Café Takoyaki Tama.

This article was originally published on the Guam Daily Post on Oct. 30, 2017. View here.

Copa winners inspire, give advice

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The Copa de Marianas competition ended with Kristina Barlaan of the United States taking home the gold after defeating the 2017 World Black Belt Champion, Talita Alencar of Brazil.

Brazil-born California resident, Tassia Pimenta, who trains with Gracie Barra black belt Romulo Barral, took the the bronze. And China’s first female black belt Emma Xiong took the fourth place finish.

California resident Kristina Barlaan, 31, who is of Filipino background — her parents are both from the Philippines — spoke of her struggles.

Although Barlaan was born and raised in the U.S., she struggled with her accent when she started school. She first started Muay Thai and watched a lot martial arts movies from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and more.

Barlaan did not start jiujitsu until she was 20 years old and she’s been training for 10 years.

Barlaan actually went through a lot of physical and emotional, abuse when she was younger. Her self-esteem was very low, which led to depression.

“Now I enjoy jiujitsu because it gives me strength and power to showcase what we can do as women,” said Barlaan. “I feel empowered and nothing else motivates me when I’m on the mat.”

“Jiujitsu showed me how to lead and be a voice in the community.”

Barlaan, who is also an instructor added, “My legacy with my students will be that I’m competitive. There are three girls who I believe will be good role models and contenders for the future — Nara, 10, Toni, 13, and Milagros, 14.”

As a competitor, Barlaan advises to “Take care of your body, train smart and treat your body right.  You need to know if you are hurt or if you’re injured because you don’t want to take risks.”

“Eat well, this is a lifestyle.  If you’re competitive – take care of your body and health,” she added.

“Perseverance – it is my motto through jiujitsu.”

Talita Alencar

Talita Alencar, 27, from Brazil is the 2017 World Champion and also a jiujitsu instructor who has been training for 13 years.

Alencar grew up in a home pained with domestic violence where she felt helpless to defend her mother against her father. One of the reasons she got into jiujitsu was to defend herself and her family members.

Alencar has brothers who are also fighters but primarily street fighters.

In her training and instructing she said, “I’m known for passing and being on top.”

“I hope my students will remember what I’ve taught them and follow in my footsteps.”

Tassia Pimenta

Pimenta, 34, also from Brazil is a jiujitsu instructor who lost her father when she was 16 years old and her life didn’t get any easier after that.

However, she found Brazilian jiujitsu in 2000 when she was 17 — nobody wanted to support her besides her brothers who were also fighters.

Pimenta has worked with kids in the past but now only focusses on herself and has been at it for 17 years now.

But she said, “I have girls following in my footsteps now.”

In training she said, “You need to go with people who challenge you. I train constantly until I get better and improve. Train smart — if you want to do something you love, you take care of yourself because it’s very hard to live this lifestyle.”

Emma Xiong

The 26-year-old black belt from China, Emma Xiong, is the first female black belt from her country and currently also instructs Brazilian jiujitsu.

She was 22 years old when she started her white belt and worked her way up the ranks and it took three years and four months to become a certified black belt instructor.

And although Xiong’s professor taught her well despite her drawbacks with being female, she was determined.

“I just had to train hard and never give up. I am not one to quit or give up, rather I stay positive,” said Xiong. “ I push myself and that’s how I train. Of course, we have to watch what we eat as it is part of your training routine.”

Xiong is also doubling as a student and she has expressed that it is hard work to eat well, go to school, and train.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 29, 2017. View here.

U.S. black belt Kristina Barlaan wins gold, cash

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Kristina Barlaan of the U.S. upset the 2017 World Champion Talita Alencar at the 2017 Copa de Marianas Jiu-Jitsu tournament held Saturday at the Father Duenas Memorial High School Phoenix Center.

The female black belt competition highlighted a day of grappling for about 200 competitors gathered at the school.

Guam is a hotspot for jiu-jitsu competitions, and it attracts grapplers from all over the world. The four international female black belt fighters all competed in the 55Kg division.

It featured Emma Xiong from China who is the first Chinese female black belt; Talita Alencar from Brazil and the 2017 world champion; Kristina Barlaan from California, who is a black belt from Caio Terra team and lastly, Tassia Pimenta from California born in Brazil who trains with Gracie Barra black belt under Romulo Barral.

For the first match, Alencar took the win by a choke-hold from the back against Emma Xiong.

In the second match, Barlaan wins by a toe-hold with 15 seconds left on the clock against Pimenta.

In the final match for the Gold medal and $2,500, both ladies put on a good show up to the last few seconds on the clock.  Kristina took the win, her advantage for a sweep attempt gave her the title. Barlaan is the first ever Copa De Marianas Women’s 55kg black belt Champion.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 28, 2017. View here.

Copa de Marianas features four black belt women fighting for $4k

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Registration is closed, and the brackets are online for the 2017 Copa de Marianas BJJ Gi/No-Gi Championship Tournament, scheduled for Saturday at the Father Duenas Memorial School Phoenix Center, starting at 8 a.m.

The 10th Copa de Marianas will feature the first Women’s Black Belt Division, with elite competitors from around the world competing for a combined cash prize of $4,000. A Master’s Division (37 years and above) was also added this year, for all belt levels. Other divisions include Kids, Teens, Female, and Adult Divisions.

“We’ve got about 200 entries, which is about average for the Copa,” said Steve Shimizu, owner of Fury Promotions, which has produced this event for the last decade. “This tournament is generally for the athlete field and their families, but since it’s the 10th, we wanted to do something special.”

Shimizu said that four “bad—” black belt champions competing against each other in the 55-kilogram class is reason enough to watch. There’s Emma Xiong, China’s first BJJ black belt, and Talita Alencar, the 2017 world champion. Kristina Barlaan, from the U.S., is a black belt under the Caio Terra Team, and Tassia Pimenta is a Gracie Barra black belt under Romulo Barral.

For these women, first place means a $2,500 prize, while $1,000 and $500 go to second and third place, respectively.

Shimizu also announced a new division, the Master’s Division, for those 37 and up. These masters will receive the same top three medals as winners in the other age, weight and gender divisions.

“We’ve got medals for the top three finishers, but basically what they’re winning is bragging rights for a year until the next Copa,” said Shimizu. “This tournament is a good way to keep the blades sharp until the Marianas Open, which is right around the corner.”

Copa de Marianas is open to the public, all ages are welcome to attend the event – tickets will be sold at the door. Food and vendors will also be on site.

The 2017 Copa de Marianas is Presented by 76 / Circle K and Sponsored by: Bank of Guam, Aloha Maid, Fokai Industries, the Stations of KUAM, Paradise Fitness, Crust Pizzaria, Pacific Solar & Volotaics, Mat’kadot Engravers, THE WHITE HOUSE | Productions, Affiliated Lifestyles, Shut Up & Fish, Strictly Tees and Café Takoyaki Tama.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 25, 2017. View here.

Copa de Marianas BJJ starts on Oct. 28, 2017

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Fury Promotions announces the 2017 Copa de Marianas BJJ Gi | No-Gi Championship Tournament will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Father Duenas Memorial School Phoenix Center in Mangilao. The 10th Copa de Marianas will feature the first women’s black belt division (55KG), with elite competitors from around the world to compete for a combined cash prize of $4,000. A masters’ division, 37 years and above, was also added this year, for all belt levels, white to brown. Other divisions include: kids, teens, female, and adult.

Steve Shimizu, Fury Promotions owner, announced his commitment to advancing the time-honored art of Brazilian jiujitsu on Guam and promoting our island. “The goal of the Marianas Open and Copa de Marianas has always been to have the best from around the world come to our island to compete here to allow our local competitors a chance to compete with the best, to train with the best and to learn from the best,” explained Shimizu. “It has also been our mission to put Guam on the map, to showcase our island paradise, as well as show the rest of the world the high-level athletes that we have coming out of our local academies,” added Shimizu.

Copa de Marianas is open to the public, all ages are welcome to attend the event – tickets will be sold at the door. Food and vendors will also be on site.

Registration is ongoing and will close on Oct. 23 at 11:59 p.m. Competitors can register at www.marianasopen.com.

The 2017 Copa de Marianas is presented by 76 / Circle K and sponsored by Bank of Guam, Aloha Maid, Fokai Industries, the Stations of KUAM, Paradise Fitness, Crust Pizzeria, Pacific Solar & Volotaics, Mat’kadot Engravers, The White House | Productions, Affiliated Lifestyles, Shut Up & Fish, Strictly Tees, Café Takoyaki Tama.

For more information, visit www.marianasopen.com or contact Steve Shimizu at: 777-9044, email copademarianasopen@gmail.com.

This article was originally published on The Guam Daily Post on Oct. 22, 2017. View here.

2017 Copa de Marianas Press Release

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TAMUNING, GU: October 23, 2017 – FURY PROMOTIONS announces the 2017 Copa de Marianas Women’s Black Belt Division Official Weigh-Ins and Press Conference will be held at 11:00am on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort in Tamuning, Guam. This event is open to the public.

The 2017 Copa de Marianas Inaugural Women’s Belt Division will showcase four of the top contenders from around the world, competing for the title and a combined cash prize of $4,000. The Women’s Black Belt Division consists of 10-minute matches with Double Elimination for Third Place. Competitors include:

  • Talita Alencar, Brazil – 2017 World Black Belt Champion
  • Kristina Barlaan, USA – 2016 European Open Champion – (Blackbelt from Caio Terra Team)
  • Emma Xiong, China – 2017 Brown Belt World Champion, 2015 Purple Belt World Champion (first Chinese female Black Belt; promoted after earning her title as Brown Belt World Champion)
  • Tassia Pimenta, Brazil– Gracie Barra Black Belt under Romulo Barral

Schedule of Events

8:00am – Competitor Check-In; Doors open
8:30am – Kids Division (matches begin promptly at 8:30am)
11:00am – Womens Black Belt Tournament begins

(Matches will follow in order below)

  1. Black Belt Division
  2. Brown Belt Division
  3. Purple Belt Division
  4. Blue Belt Division

The final day to register is October 23, 2017 at 11:59pm. Information on weight classes, registration / competitor information, and tournament rules can be found at MarianasOpen.com. CDM 2017 is Presented by 76/Circle K and Sponsored by: Bank of Guam, Aloha Maid, Fokai Industries, the Stations of KUAM, Paradise Fitness, Crust Pizzeria, Pacific Solar & Volotaics, Mat’kadot Engravers, THE WHITE HOUSE | Productions, Affiliated Lifestyles, Shut up & Fish, Strictly Tees, and Café’ Takoyaki Tama.

Copa de Marianas returns Oct 28, 2017 on island paradise of Guam

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The 10th annual Copa de Marianas BJJ Gi and No-Gi Championship Tournament will feature a women’s 55kg black belt division for the first time when it returns to the FD Phoenix Center in Mangilao, Guam, on Saturday, Oct. 28.

The tournament, which also features kids, teens, adult, and masters divisions, is set to draw elite athletes from around the world to compete for a combined cash prize of $4,000.

Copa de Marianas promoter Steve Shimizu announced his commitment to advancing the time-honored art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Guam.

“The goal of the Marianas Open and Copa de Marianas has always been to have the best from around the world come to our island to compete here to allow our local competitors a chance to compete with the best, to train with the best, and to learn from the best,” he said. “It has also been our mission to put Guam on the map to showcase our island paradise, as well as to show the rest of the world the high-level athletes that we have coming out of our local academies.”

Registration is ongoing and will close at 11:59 PM on Monday, Oct. 23. Competitors can register at MarianasOpen.com.

This article was originally published on FloGrappling on Oct. 20, 2017. View here.

Black Belt Women Showdown At 2017 Copa de Marianas

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The paradisiacal island of Guam has always been a hotbed for jiu-jitsu, with passions running high on the tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean.

With a long lineage of jiu-jitsu (including the famous Marianas Open), the Guamanians will soon host their first women’s black belt showdown, featuring four extremely tough 55kg competitors.

The competitors for the Flyweight (55kg) Women’s Tournament are:

  1. Kristina Barlaan, USA — blackbelt from Caio Terra team
  2. Talita Alencar, BRA — 2017 world champion
  3. Emma Xiong, CHN — first Chinese female black belt
  4. Tassia Pimenta, BRA — Gracie Barra black belt under Romulo Barral

The tournament will be fought under 10-minute IBJJF rules, with double elimination for third place.

The winner receives $2,500, second place earns $1,000, and third place gets $500.

This article was originally published on FloGrappling on Oct. 11, 2017. View here.