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By Tom Bell

Former World Champion, Vanessa English, has called for more competitors to support domestic events as the UK bids to truly cement its place on jiu jitsu’s global stage.

Fresh off winning gold at the British National Pro Jiu Jitsu Championships, the Victor Estima brown belt has expressed a desire to see athletes support UK jiu jitsu by competing at more events held in the country.

The British Pro offered a total of seventeen all-expenses paid trips to the World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championships (WPJJC), held in Abu Dhabi, to category winners from blue belt and above.

The 25 year-old, who has won the Europeans at both featherweight and super-featherweight in the past two years, admitted she would liked to have seen more competitors fight for a free ticket to the United Arab Emirates in April, as the prize on offer is perhaps the biggest incentive available to jiu jitsu competitors.

Speaking exclusively, English said: “It was a really good event, but I was a bit disappointed that it was so quiet. I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential, but there were some great fights and I was really, really proud to see my teammates perform so well.

“Me and my teammate Oliver Lovell both got a ticket to Abu Dhabi. Jamie Paxman, Sean Coates and Bradley Hill (who is from Gracie Barra Birmingham but trains with us a lot), came close too. Our guys are looking good - but it was a shame the event was quiet.”

British Pro competitors had the opportunity to showcase their talents in mixed belt divisions, giving lower belts the chance to gain experience and send a message to future opponents. The challenge is big, but the prize is bigger.

“I have a feeling that perhaps people look at the combined categories and think there isn’t much point entering, especially because you pay a lot to enter,” says English. “But, you know what I find strange is that the likes of the London Open is packed out, because for me, when I received my purple belt I was straight into the purple, brown and black category at the Pro Trials to get experience fighting better women. I’m not sure whether it’s that or whether it’s people thinking they won’t ever win the prize so they don’t bother, which does seem silly to me because how often do you actually fight for a prize? I’m not sure what it is.”

English was quick to praise the WPJJC as a fantastic event to attend as a competitor: “The main event at Abu Dhabi has a very, very professional feel. Going out there as a fighter, the experience is great. The atmosphere is different, there are cameras, there are lights and it kind of makes you feel quite special, which rarely happens. I guess it gives fighters the opportunity to feel like a professional because they’re being treated like a professional. It’s fantastic for both the UK and for fighters across the world.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for myself, but for everyone to feel you are being treated right. I need to mention this, my professor, Victor Estima, is currently travelling to the Pan Ams to compete. With the new IBJJF points system you have to have 50 points to qualify for the World Championships and he doesn’t actually have enough to qualify. It’s crazy, he’s been on the podium for years and years but because he hasn’t been competing in the IBJJF tournaments so much this year he doesn't yet qualify. He’s a top level competitor and he doesn’t qualify for the World Championships, and you don’t even get prize money if you win. It’s crazy, I think the IBJJF needs to begin to give back and look after the athletes because, right now, I’m sure he isn’t feeling very looked after.”


Although proud of her achievement this weekend, English doesn’t necessarily feel she earned her medal and ticket as much as some of her team mates as she would like to see more competitors on the circuit.

“No, to be honest. As a female, there aren’t as many competitors,” says English. “I looked at the guys from our team and man they had so many fights in comparison so it doesn’t particularly feel like I’ve earned my spot. If I could, I’d call for more competitors all around. Somebody actually set up a group chat on Facebook between brown belt women to encourage each other to enter international competitions and let me tell you, there are a lot of women in this group.

“You’ve only got to look at the British Championships, there were a lot of purple belt women enter and it surprises me that they didn't show for the trials. I feel like not supporting a UK event fully is a shame. Last year at the World Pro Trials there were a lot of purple belts but this year, with the combined categories, none. Not one purple belt at -65kg.”

The goal for English now is to continue to make strides at brown belt in 2015: “It was strange really, when I received my brown belt it felt like my whole game kind of got broken up and now I’m trying to rekindle it all back together. There were times in competition that it was apparent but obviously when you add more things the hesitation can be there, which can lead to your opponent getting a better position or perhaps you not finishing a submission.

“I got gold at the Europeans this year and last year, at two separate weights, but I lost my first fight at the worlds last year - so hopefully this year I can make amends for that.”

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March 10, 2015 — Jiu Jitsu Style