One of the biggest signs of the growth in popularity of jiu-jitsu is the skill level of lower belt competitors. For the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in full-time competitors at the blue, purple, and brown belts developing their games and reaching high levels of technique at very young ages. Super fight shows like Fight to Win, EUG Promotions, Who’s Number One, and Third Coast Grappling give exposure to these athletes and increase their popularity, so they are well known before reaching the black belt level. This series of articles will cover some of the top blue, purple, and brown belts of 2021.
Sophia Rose Magana
Sophia first started training in 2017, and despite having less than four years of competition experience, she has already won important titles such as the Pan Ams and American Nationals. Training under Marcio Andre in Phoenix, AZ, Sophia has developed a game based on aggression leading to positional control and submission. “I always say I am chasing a feeling when I am competing. It’s not just about winning; it’s about getting to continuously test and measure my will and skill against the girl across from me. This is why I love continuously competing in the absolutes as the smallest female. Most recently, I am coming off gold at American Nationals, triple gold at the Austin Open and a F2W Pro victory. I love not only putting myself to the test, but showing that Marcio Andre is one of the best coaches in the world.” Look for Sophia to keep adding to her win column in IBJJF, F2W, and any other promotions where she can put her skills to the test.
AOJ prodigy Cole Abate has been training jiu-jitsu since 2010. In 2019, he relocated from Texas to southern California to continue pursuing his goals under the tutelage of Gui and Rafa Mendes. Since making the move, Cole has won Pan Kids, European, Who’s Number One, No Gi Pan, and multiple IBJJF open titles. Cole trains on a daily basis with not only his professors Gui and Rafa Mendes, but also with Johnatha Alves and Tainan Dalpra, two of the best active competitors in the game. He will be competing at the upcoming Who’s Number One Championships in a bracket with Mikey Musumeci, Kennedy Maciel, Josh Cisneros, Kade Ruotolo, Geo Martinez, Diego “Pato” Oliveira, and Ethan Crelinsten this fall and will likely be competing against black belts more frequently on super fight shows in the near future. Don’t be surprised if you see Cole on the top of the podium at Pan Ams, Worlds, and ADCC Trials in the next couple months.
The Daisy Fresh/Pedigo Submission Fighting team gained a lot of notoriety in the jiu-jitsu community following the Daisy Fresh series on FloGrappling. Although the team had many successful competitors before the series launched, they were a single academy competing against teams with hundreds of schools, making it a bit more difficult for them to get noticed on a larger scale. These days we’re seeing more and more of their athletes having great competition results. Blue belt Jacob Bornemann has won two No Gi Pan titles and has an electric style, mixing takedowns and submissions with his natural aggression. “Training at Pedigo Submission Fighting is like entering a competition every day. Five days a week, twice a day it feels like you’re competing. You get nerves because you know it’s a dog fight with everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a white, blue, purple, brown, or black belt, there are no easy rolls. No one takes it easy because they are trying to make jiu-jitsu their career but at the same time, it feels like home. Everyone is so welcoming and nice.” Jacob’s natural athleticism and his team at PSF will take him far in the sport.
Takeshiro Tanino Kauan Yuuki
Takeshiro Tanino Kauan Yuuki is a blue belt under Andre Galvao at Atos HQ in San Diego. He won double gold at the 2020 IBJJF Europeans and quadruple gold at the 2021 American Nationals, winning his weight and the open in his gi and no-gi divisions. His guard passing utilizes a combination of movement and pressure to overwhelm his opponents. From his guard, he’s able to keep his opponents off-balance to set up sweeps and submissions. Training at Atos HQ with Andre Galvao, Andy Murasaki, Dom Bell, Rolando Samson, Lucas Barbosa, Kaynan Duarte, and countless other world champions will be a considerable asset to Takeshiro’s training. When asked about his goals for the future, Takeshiro simply responded, “I just want to win.” We will likely get to see Takeshiro at Gi Worlds, No Gi Worlds, and ADCC Trials very soon.
Jalen “The Future” Fonacier is a blue belt under Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles. He trains at both Cobrinha BJJ Redondo Beach as well as Cobrinha HQ in Los Angeles. Jalen’s main accomplishments in 2021 include winning the IBJJF American Nationals Gi and No-Gi and becoming the EUG Promotions Champion. He’s also won Pan Kids and Kids International Open tournaments. “My biggest accomplishment is having been able to implement the lessons I learn from jiu-jitsu into my everyday life on and off the mats. In the future, I plan to earn my black belt, become a black belt world champion, and compete at the highest level. I hope to spread my knowledge, experience, and love for the sport by opening my own academy someday.” Expect to see Jalen at both IBJJF and super-fight events in 2021 and beyond.
Carolina Vieira is a blue belt under Mica Cipili at Gracie Humaita Las Vegas. At blue belt, she’s won American Nationals and super fights at Submission on the Shore and Fight to Win. Carolina is a very active competitor in both gi and no-gi. She has excellent triangle and armbar attacks from her guard, as well as solid guard passing skills. “Arriving here in America and winning tournaments were huge achievements for me, but they’re not even close to everything I want to accomplish. I want to be a World champion this year at blue belt and at all the other belts ahead.” Expect to see Carolina on super-fight events and the major IBJJF tournaments throughout the remainder of the year.
Stay tuned for the breakout purple and brown belts of 2021.
Danny O’Donnell is a Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, co-host of the Open GuardCast, and an assistant instructor at Marcio Andre Jiu Jitsu Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.