Forget dodgy decisions. One of the most common complaints at any jiu-jitsu tournament is that of “sand bagging”.
Though jiu-jitsu is an amateur sport competitions are taken very seriously and there is more than just a medal on the line. The title of champion is highly sought after and some people will go to extreme measures to secure victory.
Sand bagging has long said to be a problem at jiu-jitsu tournaments, but is it really as prevalent as people say? We decided to analyze the statistics to find out.
What is “Sand Bagging"?
Sand bagging is intentionally holding somebody back from promotion so that they can compete a rank down from their true skill. They do this so they can go into competitions and win gold medals against outclassed opposition.
For example, an athlete may have been training for a number of years and has acquired the skills of a purple belt or higher, yet would be entered into a competition as a blue belt and clean up.
Photo: Maggie Left
When Do Promotions Take Place?
Promotions in jiu-jitsu are subjective and done completely at the discretion of an athlete’s coach. It is only for them to decide when an athlete will move up in rank, and there is no set criteria for when a promotion should take place.
For active competitors, results are the best indicator of when a promotion is due. For the top athletes at all levels, hitting the podium at Worlds (and, of course, preferably winning) is usually when they get bumped up, with the belt usually tied around their waist alongside the medal around their neck.
For those not given their next belt on the podium most jiu-jitsu teams will have a twice-yearly promotion ceremony; one at the end of the year, and another in the middle.
Photo: Kenny Jewel
IBJJF Regulations re: Promotions
It is important to clarify that while some competitors will return to compete in up to three consecutive World Championships as blue belts, this is often in the juvenile 1 and 2 divisions, which are for athletes under the age of 18.
As per IBJJF regulations, athletes may compete as a blue belt in the juvenile 1 division the year they turn 16. For juvenile 2, it is the year the turn 17. Only in the year they turn 18 are they permitted to compete in the blue belt adult divisions.
Note: 17 year olds are permitted to be promoted to purple belt and can compete in the adult divisions though most coaches will require their athletes to win a prestigious tournament at blue belt before this promotion takes place.
Why Is There So Much Disparity In Skill?
The truth is, not all competitors are created equal. There is a big difference between a blue belt in his mid-twenties with a few years under his belt who balances a job and family along with his training.
Compare this to a teenager who started training when he was 5 years old and is a full-time jiu-jitsu professional who does nothing but eat, sleep and train. Or somebody who literally lives in the gym and trains 3-4 times a day with the best training partners in the world.
At the higher belt ranks there is less that separates the athletes in terms of skill, and it becomes a case of– among other things– who is the better-prepared athlete. But at the lower ranks, skill levels can vary widely.
Photo: Maggie Left
Blue Belt Results
Many of the sand bagging claims are aimed at individuals who competed in 2016 and 2017 as blue belts.
The results below are from the adult divisions. You will note that there no repeat gold medalists from year to year.
At blue belt from from 2016-18 there were only THREE repeat appearances on the podium:
- Roberto William Feijó Fonseca, who took bronze in 2016 and silver in 2017 at light-featherweight
- Adam Bradley, who took silver as a middleweight in 2016 and bronze in 2017 at medium-heavyweight.
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Rooster||BLUE / Adult / Male / Rooster||Blue / Adult / Male / Rooster|
|Gabriel Vieira de Sá Bottino Gaudio||Christian Steven Fisher||Isaias Higino Pereira dos Santos|
|Brad Matthew Johnston||Robert Vu||Matheus Henrique Araújo Azancot Vilaça|
|Jonathan Carrion||Darryl R. Lebus||Isaih Francesco Calderon|
|Vance Kamminga||Tyler Mase||Keven Carrasco|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||BLUE / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||Blue / Adult / Male / Light-Feather|
|Lucas Emanuel da Silva||Demian Balderrama Gomez||Fabricio Andrey Batista Junior|
|Daniel de Oliveira Amorim Junior||Roberto William Feijó Fonseca||Breno Santana de Azevedo|
|Matheus Gabriel Pinheiro Barros||An Vu||Gavin Mikhail Corbe|
|Roberto William Feijó Fonseca||Liam Randall Thoren Moss||Robin Bohlin|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Feather||BLUE / Adult / Male / Feather||Blue / Adult / Male / Feather|
|Jose Mathias Macedo de Lira Luna||Israel de Sousa Almeida||Marcelo Fausto de Abreu|
|Jeferson Guaresi||Luiz Paulo Carneiro Medeiros||Adalberto Carvalho Elias Junior|
|Darlan Vinicius da S. Casaca||Gustavo Estebam Dos Santos||Luiz Guilherme de Oliveira Rodrigues|
|João Victor Pinheiro Machado Souza||Marlon Ribeiro Silva Ferreira||Matheus Teixeira Queiroz|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Light||BLUE / Adult / Male / Light||Blue / Adult / Male / Light|
|Guthierry Barbosa N. Conceição||Johnatha Barbosa Alves||Lucas Andre Galvão Protasio|
|Lucas Gualberto Gomes Nascimento||Mohammed Yusuf||Samuel Levi Duarte Arrieche|
|Byung Ju Lee||Lucas Tres Arena de Souza||Heitor Ferreira Mangaravitte Senra|
|Gabriel Souza Ferreira da Silva||Martin Gonzalez||Victor Leon R. Carmona|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Middle||BLUE / Adult / Male / Middle||Blue / Adult / Male / Middle|
|Mauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto||Scott D. Perry||Tainan Dalpra Costa|
|Daniel Nunes Martins||Arthur Dorneles Mariath||Travis Leroy Lindahl|
|Adam Bradley||João Pedro Freitas Carrazoni||Chee Chan Chew|
|Joao Victor Nunes de Almeida||Thiago Aso da Graça||Felipe Aníbal Ferraz Teixeira|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy||BLUE / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy||Blue / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy|
|Guilherme Afonso Freire Themudo Jardim||Pedro Henrique P. Machado Souza||Mateus Rodrigues de Souza|
|Simon Immerstrand||Reda Hamzaoui||Caio Levi Costa Almeida|
|Daniel Chionuma||Adam Bradley||Rafael Fernando Da Silva|
|Ney Medeiros Costa||Dante Daniel Cano Junior||Ryan North|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Heavy||BLUE / Adult / Male / Heavy||Blue / Adult / Male / Heavy|
|André Luiz Novaes Porfirio||Darin Conner Deangelis||Louis Ryan|
|Manatea Couraud||Davi Silva Souza||Davi Cabral|
|Carlos Fernando Arce Pellegrini||João Leal||Jean Fontoura Da Silva|
|Eric Koval||Khaled Ramadan||Manoel Vitor Nunes Pinto|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||BLUE / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||Blue / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy|
|Brian Giorgio||Hudson Taylor||Caio Perondi De Melo|
|Ricardo Peruffo e Silva||Gabriel Spiller Della Giustina||Ville Backman|
|Arrion Brown||Brian Richards||Valdir Moraes Rodrigues Junior|
|Joao Paulo Martins de Araujo||Taylor Kettler||Vinicius Matheus Bernardo de Aquino|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||BLUE / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||Blue / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy|
|Luis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo||Wallace Costa da Silveira||Jason Shirley|
|Pedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta||Ehsan Rajabi||LIE Wilhem Manaatua|
|Francis Pana||Mohammed Mustafa||Gabriel Kutianski Gonzalez Vieira|
|Leroy Johnson||Renan Cruz||Jonathen Robert Zamora|
|BLUE / Adult / Male / Open Class||BLUE / Adult / Male / Open Class||Blue / Adult / Male / Open Class|
|Luis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo||Pedro Henrique P. Machado Souza||Mateus Rodrigues de Souza|
|Mauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto||Taylor Kettler||Tainan Dalpra Costa|
|Brian Giorgio||Dante Daniel Cano Junior||Gabriel Kutianski Gonzalez Vieira|
|Lucas Gualberto Gomes Nascimento||Gustavo Estebam Dos Santos||Lucas Andre Galvão Protasio|
Photo: Kenny Jewel
Purple Belt Results
We see a higher number of athletes who will compete at Worlds as a purple belt more than once. Part of this reason is because the IBJJF regulations state that a competitor must serve 18 months at purple belt before being promoted to brown.
10 athletes made the podium one year after the other, with two of them competing at purple belt in 2016 and 2018.
- Thalison Soares won roosterweight gold in 2017 and closed out the final in 2018. Promoted on the podium immediately after Worlds 2018, he is not eligible to compete in IBJJF tournaments as a brown belt until July of 2018.
- Jonas Andrade took bronze at light-featherweight in 2016 and gold at roosterweight in 2018.
- Italo Moura took bronze at featherweight in 2016 and bronze at lightweight in 2018.
- Twin brothers Mathias and Matheus Luna medaled in 2017 and 2018, with Matias getting featherweight bronze in 2017 and gold in 2018 and Matheus taking lightweight bronze both years.
- Tarik Hopstock took bronze in both 2016 and 2017 at middleweight, as well as absolute bronze his second year at Worlds.
- Sean Coates took bronze in 2016 and 2017 at medium heavyweight.
- Devhonte Johnson took medium heavyweight silver in 2016, and super-heavyweight gold in 2017.
- Marcus Vinicius Siqueira got heavyweight bronze in both 2016 and 2017.
- Pedro Pimenta got silver and bronze as an ultra-heavyweight in 2017 and 2018, as well as absolute bronze in 2018.
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Rooster||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Rooster||Purple / Adult / Male / Rooster|
|João Gabriel Batista de Sousa||Thalison Vitorino Soares||Francisco Jonas Borges Andrade|
|Deandre Villarama Corbe||Shoya Ishiguro||Thalison Vitorino Soares|
|Hiroki Sugimoto||Cory Walker||Johnif de Oliveira Rocha|
|Ryan Galvan||Kevin Martincowski||Solomon William Blanch|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||Purple / Adult / Male / Light-Feather|
|Kennedy Leonardo Maciel||Diego Oliveira Batista||Lucas Batista Rodrigues|
|Jonata Gomes Ramos||Lucas Emanuel da Silva||Raul Barbosa Basílio|
|Francisco Jonas Borges Andrade||Bruno Campos Xavier||Meyram Maquiné Alves|
|Malachi James C. Edmond||João Victor de Oliveira Costa||Rony Rezende Fialho|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Feather||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Feather||Purple / Adult / Male / Feather|
|João Pedro Bueno Mendes||Victor Nithael de Oliveira Marques||Jose Mathias Macedo de Lira Luna|
|Guilherme G. Borges O. da Rocha||Guilherme G. Borges O. da Rocha||Julio Souza Arantes|
|Italo Moura de Azevedo||Daniel de Oliveira Amorim Junior||Israel de Sousa Almeida|
|Pedro Iahnke de Oliveira Crixel||Jose Mathias Macedo de Lira Luna||Marlon Ribeiro Silva Ferreira|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Light||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Light||Purple / Adult / Male / Light|
|Paulo Gabriel Martins da Costa||Jonnatas Gracie Araujo da Silva||Samuel Nagai Hatchwell|
|Angelo Dequan Claiborne||Lucas Gualberto Gomes Nascimento||Johnatha Barbosa Alves|
|Gustavo Khouri Maron||José Matheus M. de L. Luna||Italo Moura de Azevedo|
|Moribe Shinsuke||Matheus Lucas Rocha de Oliveira||José Matheus Macedo de Lira Luna|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Middle||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Middle||Purple / Adult / Male / Middle|
|Matheus Francisco Lutes||Mauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto||Ronaldo Pereira de Souza Júnior|
|Kauan Argimon Barboza||Alex Munis dos Santos||Rafael dos Anjos Torres|
|Tarik Hopstock||Jake Michael Watson||Lucas Gualberto Gomes Nascimento|
|Thomas John Keenan||Tarik Hopstock||Pedro Henrique Maia Costa|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy|
Purple / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy
|Fellipe Andrew Leandro Silva||Kaynan Casemiro Duarte||Igor Tanabe Guimarães|
|Devhonte M. Johnson||Andrew Wiltse||Adam Bradley|
|Hugh Fletcher||Charles Tsakh||Alexander Baffoun|
|Sean Coates||Sean Coates||Pablo Estepa|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Heavy||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Heavy||Purple / Adult / Male / Heavy|
|Vinicius Ferreira Gazola||Wilson Moreira Costa Junior||Roberto Francisco Jimenez|
|Gustavo Espindola Batista||Sky Lovell||Darin Conner Deangelis|
|Marcelo Gomide Oliveira||Bruno Filipe Santos Lima||Carlos Diaz|
|Marcus Vinicius Siqueira||Marcus Vinicius Siqueira||Christopher Passerrello|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||Purple / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy|
|Victor Hugo Costa Marques||Devhonte M. Johnson||André Luiz Novaes Porfirio|
|Kristóf Szucs||Fábio Angnes Alano||Brian Giorgio|
|Lukas Friend Pollard||Eric Jasper Bergmann||Bilal Benmahammed|
|Matheus Felipe da Silva Xavier||José Manuel Eyo Ortega||Marcos Carrozzino|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||Purple / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy|
|Fábio Angnes Alano||Victor Hugo Costa Marques||Mason Fowler|
|Dennis Andra||Pedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta||Austin Baker|
|Chad Lutu||Gabe Salinas||Aleksandr Sak|
|Mikko Veijonen||Luis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo||Pedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta|
|PURPLE / Adult / Male / Open Class||PURPLE / Adult / Male / Open Class||Purple / Adult / Male / Open Class|
|Victor Hugo Costa Marques||Jonnatas Gracie Araujo da Silva||Roberto Francisco Jimenez|
|Fábio Angnes Alano||Victor Hugo Costa Marques||Mason Fowler|
|Devhonte M. Johnson||Luis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo||Pedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta|
|Fellipe Andrew Leandro Silva||Tarik Hopstock||Ronaldo Pereira de Souza Júnior|
Photo: Kenny Jewel
Brown Belt Results
Though IBJJF regulations stipulate that an athlete only needs to serve a minimum of one year as a brown belt, the jump from brown to black is great and coaches are reluctant to throw their athletes into the deep waters of the black divisions until they have proved they have what it takes to go against the best in the world.
Nine athletes medaled at two World Championships in consecutive years, but none made the podium in tournaments over a year apart.
- Hiago Gama of Alliance took silver in 2016 and gold in 2017 as a roosterweight. He took bronze as a black belt in 2018.
- Pablo Mantovani of Atos took bronze in both 2016 and 2017 at light-featherweight. He is now a black belt.
- Alliance’s Kennedy Maciel took bronze in 2017 and gold in 2018 at light-featherweight and was promoted to black belt on the podium.
- João Mendes of Atos took featherweight silver in 2017 and bronze in 2018. He got promoted to black belt after Worlds.
- Soul Fighters rep Hugo Marques took lightweight bronze in 2016 and gold in 2017. He competed 2018 as a black belt.
- Leonardo Lara of Almeida JJ / Atos was a lightweight bronze medalist in 2017 and a middleweight champion in 2018. He was promoted to black belt on the podium.
- Rolando Samson of Atos took silver two years running as a middleweight, in 2016 and 2017. He competed 2018 as a black belt.
- Alliance’s Vinicius Ferreira won heavyweight brown belt gold in 2017 but only managed bronze in 2018.
- Matheus Felipe da Silva Xavier of Checkmat won super-heavyweight brown belt gold in 2017 and placed third in 2018.
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Rooster||BROWN / Adult / Male / Rooster||Brown / Adult / Male / Rooster|
|Jose Carlos Souza Lima Sobrinho||Hiago Gama Sousa||Cícero Lívio Ribeiro Saldanha Paiva|
|Hiago Gama Sousa||Pedro Paulo Dias Clementino||Carlos Alberto Oliveira Da Silva|
|Alexis Alduncin Barragan||Nobuhiro Sawada||Masayuki Yoshioka|
|Matheus Viana Magalhães||Wellington Alex da Silva||Suraj Kumar Budhram|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||BROWN / Adult / Male / Light-Feather||Brown / Adult / Male / Light-Feather|
|Cleber de Sousa Fernandes||Alexssandro Pinto Sodré||Kennedy Leonardo Maciel|
|Rodrigo Carvalho Coutinho Diniz Costa||Eric Cong Phan||Malachi James C. Edmond|
|Pablo Mantovani Dutra||Kennedy Leonardo Maciel||Igor Almeida|
|Wellington Alex da Silva||Pablo Mantovani Dutra||Rafael Doerzapff Marques|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Feather||BROWN / Adult / Male / Feather||Brown / Adult / Male / Feather|
|Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor||João Paulo Gonçalves Neto||Matheus Gabriel Pinheiro Barros|
|Richar Emiliano Nogueira||João Pedro Bueno Mendes||Richar Emiliano Nogueira|
|Edmaicon Moraes Pinto da Silva||Felipe Linhares Arruda||João Pedro Bueno Mendes|
|Franck Hart||Marlus Salgado de Souza||Murilo Guimarães do Amaral|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Light||BROWN / Adult / Male / Light||Brown / Adult / Male / Light|
|Renato Forasieppi Alves Canuto||Hugo Doerzapff Marques||Levi Jones-Leary|
|Pedro Ramalho||Dante Leon||Leonardo da Silva Guimaraes|
|Hugo Doerzapff Marques||Leonardo Teixeira Lara||Bruno Bressan Garcia|
|Lucas Sette C. Valente Tobias||Pedro Ramalho||Guilherme Cleovan da Rosa|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Middle||BROWN / Adult / Male / Middle||Brown / Adult / Male / Middle|
|Isaque Bahiense Braz||Eduardo Bernardo Tinoco||Leonardo Teixeira Lara|
|Rolando Villanueva Samson||Rolando Villanueva Samson||Jonnatas Gracie Araujo da Silva|
|Servio Tulio C. Guimarães Junqueira||Lucas Sette C. Valente Tobias||Matheus Francisco Lutes|
|Tommy Lilleskog Langaker||Max Leonard Lindblad||Tarik Hopstock|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy||BROWN / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy||Brown / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy|
|Horlando de Jesus Monteiro||Rudson Mateus Sarmento Teles||Mauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto|
|Matheus Godoy Romero||Gustavo Espindola Batista||Gabriel Henrique dos S Oliveira|
|Gerard Piotr Labinski||Michael Anthony Perez||Dominique L. Bell|
|Hunter Xavier Kainalu Ewald||Michael Trasso||Gabriel Salles Muniz Almeida|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Heavy||BROWN / Adult / Male / Heavy||Brown / Adult / Male / Heavy|
|Nicholas de Barcellos Meregali||Vinicius Ferreira Gazola||Kaynan Casemiro Duarte|
|Jesse Juhani Urholin||Gabriel Salles Muniz Almeida||Harryson Santana Pereira|
|Rafael Vasconcelos de Lima||Fellipe Andrew Leandro Silva||Marcelo Gomide Oliveira|
|Samuel Christian Rice||Vitor Roberto Cheloni Mello||Vinicius Ferreira Gazola|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||BROWN / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy||Brown / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy|
|Max dos Santos Gimenis||Gutemberg de Jesus Santos Pereira||Devhonte M. Johnson|
|Fernando Andrade dos Reis||Gerard Piotr Labinski||Waldyr Alberto Costa Santos Filho|
|Helton Jose Mendes da Silva Junior||Perttu Tapio Tepponen||Anton Minenko|
|Louis Mario Villarreal||Quentin E. Leahy||Marcus Vinicius Ribeiro de Siqueira|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||BROWN / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy||Brown / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy|
|Felipe Augusto Farias Bezerra||Matheus Felipe da Silva Xavier||Victor Hugo Costa Marques|
|Marcus Antonio Guedes Salerno||Renan Marcel Rodrigues Vieira||Luis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo|
|Casey William Hellenberg||Casey William Hellenberg||Denis Roberts|
|Pedro Paulo Campi Agrizzi||Guilherme Wilson S. Cordiviola||Matheus Felipe da Silva Xavier|
|BROWN / Adult / Male / Open Class||BROWN / Adult / Male / Open Class||Brown / Adult / Male / Open Class|
|Nicholas de Barcellos Meregali||Rudson Mateus Sarmento Teles||Kaynan Casemiro Duarte|
|Isaque Bahiense Braz||Perttu Tapio Tepponen||Victor Hugo Costa Marques|
|Max dos Santos Gimenis||Casey William Hellenberg||Marcus Vinicius Ribeiro de Siqueira|
|Tommy Lilleskog Langaker||Gabriel Salles Muniz Almeida||Mauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto|