Nathiely Jesus: The 20-Year-Old Breakout Black Belt Superstar In The Making

Chase Smith / FloGrappling nathiely jesus absolute final.JPG

Few black belt competitors in the sport today can claim to have had a rookie year quite like Nathiely Karoline Melo de Jesus… And it hasn't even been a full year yet.

Only seven months ago, accompanied by the sound of double gold medals clanking around her neck and the cheering of her teammates, Melo was promoted to black belt by coach Cicero Costha. 

At only 20 years old she had just dominated both the female brown belt medium heavy and absolute divisions at the 2016 IBJJF World Championships.

Although now Melo is arguably one of the top female athletes in the sport of jiu-jitsu, little more than seven years ago she was just a little girl from the small town of Itapira who suffered from bronchitis. 

[instagram url="https://www.instagram.com/p/BNxOXS4g4MF/?taken-by=nathibjj" hide_caption="1"]

How a childhood disease kickstarted an athletic career  

A respiratory disease characterized by inflammation of the mucus membrane inside the lungs which causes severe coughing spells and breathlessness, bronchitis keeps most children from any kind of vigorous physical activity. 

However, a doctor advised Melo's parents to make her do just that very thing.

At the time the family was living in Embu das Artes, a municipality on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, where they had moved when Melo was still young. Brazil's biggest metropolis, Sao Paulo, was also one of the world's hot spots for Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Following the advice of the doctor, her parents decided to enroll the then 12-year-old Melo in judo, and then a year later in jiu-jitsu, where she trained at a Lotus Club affiliate academy under Claudio Felix. 

Only three months after that, Melo entered her first competition.

A natural born competitor

Melo was a natural from the start. Tall and athletic, with legs made for the triangle choke, she quickly became known as a tough competitor on the South American competition scene. 

Fighting under the Lotus Club flag, she won a number of tournaments at both blue and purple belt. And as a middleweight fighter, Melo was perfectly positioned to be a force in both her own division as well as the absolute division, where she had the advantage of both size and speed.

nullThen in 2013 she started dating Manuel Ribamar (pictured with Nathiely, right), a PSLPB Cicero Costha athlete. 

It was during her first visit to his academy in December of that year that she would make a decision that would take her jiu-jitsu career to the next level. 

At the time, Cicero Costha's "Projeto Social Lutando Pelo Bem" (PSLPB, 'Fighting For Good Social Project') was already earning a reputation for producing some of the sport's toughest and most exiting competitors, including Leandro Lo and Paulo and Joao Miyao.

Following an eye-opening training session, Melo wasted no time. By January 2014, she was officially a PSLPB athlete. 

Winning medals, and the attention of the world 

Her jiu-jitsu career went into high gear. She began training and competing full time, catching the attention of sponsors, traveling both throughout Brazil as well as internationally to compete in some of the world's largest jiu-jitsu competitions. 

More often than not, she found herself standing at the top of the podium. 

By the end of her purple belt year, she had already collected championship titles in the Brazilian Nationals, Pan American and the Worlds. But it was her brown belt season that would put her on the map. 

Just months after she was promoted to brown, Melo fought in the UAEJJF Brazil National Pro and defeated a number of tough brown and black belt competitors in the Female +62kg absolute division. The prize was an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championships the following April. 

null
Nathiely Jesus in action at the 2016 Los Angeles Grand Slam. Photo: Ivan Trinidade / Gentle Art Media

There, it wasn't her win that made the international jiu-jitsu community sit up and take notice of the young Brazilian athlete… it was her loss.

Following her +70kg division win, Melo faced jiu-jitsu black belt superstar Mackenzie Dern in the second round of the absolute division. 

In one of the most exciting matches of the event, Melo and Dern went back and forth, sweep for sweep… 2-2, then 2-4 Dern, then 4-4. Dern goes for a foot and Melo defends, then stood up for another 2 points. 

With less than 30 seconds left, Melo desperately tried to maintain her 6-4 lead, trying to keep her distance from the dynamic black belt, but was penalized for running out of bounds, which evened the score and gave Dern the win by mere advantage points. 

Now Melo is headed back to Abu Dhabi for the UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam this weekend, where she will fight to maintain her number one spot in the UAEJJF year-end ranking, to win $10,000 in cash prizes. 

Watch Nathiely in action in both the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Jan. 14, and the IBJJF European Championships Jan. 21/22, live or on demand on FloGrappling.

Weekly Viewing Guide: 11/13-19

Mike Calimbas Jaidyn Mueller.jpg

From the NCAA Cross Country Championships to NCAA basketball this weekend has a live event for every die-hard sports fan. Headlining the FloSports Weekly Viewing Guide is the 2017 NCAA Division I, II and III Cross Country Championships on FloTrack. If you have Apple TV 4 or Roku, watch these live events and more from the convenience of your home. Keep scrolling to see what else is happening across the FloSports Network.

FloGrappling Weekly Roll-Up: 11/13-17

Mike Calimbas DJ Jackson F2Wpro54 3.jpg

With a highlight video from ADCC 2017, epic events in Brazil, and MMA news, this week saw its fair share of diverse jiu-jitsu content. Here's what you may have missed. 

Five Grappling Standouts You Must Watch At Fight To Win Pro 55

Mike Calimbas f2w Alvin Robinson.jpg

By Averi Clements | Fight to Win Pro 55 brings the promotion back home to Denver on Friday, Nov. 17, for the show that features a wide variety of talented and accomplished competitors.

Official Submission Underground 6 Lineup Released

588f779186a4c.jpg

Chael Sonnen is bringing some serious heat to the table with the sixth edition of Submission Underground on Dec. 3 in Portland, OR!

Rematches & Opportunities For Revenge At NY BJJ Pro

Michael Sears Gianni Grippo by Michael Sears.jpg

By Michael Sears | The IBJJF New York BJJ Pro on Saturday, Nov. 18, is the last BJJ Pro event of 2017 and also the final opportunity this year to earn cash prizes and double ranking points at an international open.

New York BJJ Pro: Purple / Brown Belts You Must Follow

Michael Sears Devhonte Johnson by Michael Sears.jpg

By Michael Sears | While the $4,000 cash prize for black belt divisions at the New York BJJ Pro is set to bring out some of the top names in the sport on Saturday, the lower belts also have a chance to win some money too. 

DJ Jackson: The Grappling Standout Gunning For UFC And MMA Glory

Mike Calimbas DJ Jackson F2Wpro54 3.jpg

DJ Jackson is one of the best-known middleweight grapplers in the game. The rock-solid Team Lloyd Irvin black belt is notorious for his his relentless style and near-unsweepable base.

Para Jiu-Jitsu Is Flourishing Under UAEJJF's Watch

Chase Smith / FloGrappling para6.jpg

The stands were packed, team chants reigned down, and the screams of fans and coaches alike filled the Carioca 1 Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Had the black belt finals gotten underway at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on Sunday?

Mackenzie Dern's Next MMA Challenge Is...

War Tribe 57aa1ffe9992b.jpeg

Mackenzie Dern is headed to UFC...

Watch The Best Of: Vagner Rocha

Chase Smith vagnerwins.jpg

Vagner Rocha is one of the most feared grapplers on the circuit. Known for his aggressive and borderline mean style of grappling, the Fight Sports black belt always puts on a show for the fans!