Claims Of Sand Bagging At IBJJF Worlds Proven To be False

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 / RoosterBLUE / Adult / Male / RoosterBlue / Adult / Male / Rooster
Gabriel Vieira de Sá Bottino GaudioChristian Steven FisherIsaias Higino Pereira dos Santos
Brad Matthew JohnstonRobert VuMatheus Henrique Araújo Azancot Vilaça
Jonathan CarrionDarryl R. LebusIsaih Francesco Calderon
Vance KammingaTyler MaseKeven Carrasco

BLUE / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherBLUE / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherBlue / Adult / Male / Light-Feather
Lucas Emanuel da SilvaDemian Balderrama GomezFabricio Andrey Batista Junior
Daniel de Oliveira Amorim JuniorRoberto William Feijó FonsecaBreno Santana de Azevedo
Matheus Gabriel Pinheiro BarrosAn VuGavin Mikhail Corbe
Roberto William Feijó FonsecaLiam Randall Thoren MossRobin Bohlin

BLUE / Adult / Male / FeatherBLUE / Adult / Male / FeatherBlue / Adult / Male / Feather
Jose Mathias Macedo de Lira LunaIsrael de Sousa AlmeidaMarcelo Fausto de Abreu
Jeferson GuaresiLuiz Paulo Carneiro MedeirosAdalberto Carvalho Elias Junior
Darlan Vinicius da S. CasacaGustavo Estebam Dos SantosLuiz Guilherme de Oliveira Rodrigues
João Victor Pinheiro Machado SouzaMarlon Ribeiro Silva FerreiraMatheus Teixeira Queiroz

BLUE / Adult / Male / LightBLUE / Adult / Male / LightBlue / Adult / Male / Light
Guthierry Barbosa N. ConceiçãoJohnatha Barbosa AlvesLucas Andre Galvão Protasio
Lucas Gualberto Gomes NascimentoMohammed YusufSamuel Levi Duarte Arrieche
Byung Ju LeeLucas Tres Arena de SouzaHeitor Ferreira Mangaravitte Senra
Gabriel Souza Ferreira da SilvaMartin GonzalezVictor Leon R. Carmona

BLUE / Adult / Male / MiddleBLUE / Adult / Male / MiddleBlue / Adult / Male / Middle
Mauricio de Oliveira Santos NetoScott D. PerryTainan Dalpra Costa
Daniel Nunes MartinsArthur Dorneles MariathTravis Leroy Lindahl
Adam BradleyJoão Pedro Freitas CarrazoniChee Chan Chew
Joao Victor Nunes de AlmeidaThiago Aso da GraçaFelipe Aníbal Ferraz Teixeira

BLUE / Adult / Male / Medium-HeavyBLUE / Adult / Male / Medium-HeavyBlue / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy
Guilherme Afonso Freire Themudo JardimPedro Henrique P. Machado SouzaMateus Rodrigues de Souza
Simon ImmerstrandReda HamzaouiCaio Levi Costa Almeida
Daniel ChionumaAdam BradleyRafael Fernando Da Silva
Ney Medeiros CostaDante Daniel Cano JuniorRyan North

BLUE / Adult / Male / HeavyBLUE / Adult / Male / HeavyBlue / Adult / Male / Heavy
André Luiz Novaes PorfirioDarin Conner DeangelisLouis Ryan 
Manatea CouraudDavi Silva SouzaDavi Cabral
Carlos Fernando Arce PellegriniJoão LealJean Fontoura Da Silva
Eric KovalKhaled RamadanManoel Vitor Nunes Pinto

BLUE / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyBLUE / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyBlue / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy
Brian GiorgioHudson TaylorCaio Perondi De Melo
Ricardo Peruffo e SilvaGabriel Spiller Della GiustinaVille Backman
Arrion BrownBrian RichardsValdir Moraes Rodrigues Junior
Joao Paulo Martins de AraujoTaylor KettlerVinicius Matheus Bernardo de Aquino

BLUE / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyBLUE / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyBlue / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy
Luis Eduardo Lopes do CarmoWallace Costa da SilveiraJason Shirley
Pedro Alex dos Santos PimentaEhsan RajabiLIE Wilhem Manaatua
Francis PanaMohammed MustafaGabriel Kutianski Gonzalez Vieira
Leroy JohnsonRenan CruzJonathen Robert Zamora

BLUE / Adult / Male / Open ClassBLUE / Adult / Male / Open ClassBlue / Adult / Male / Open Class
Luis Eduardo Lopes do CarmoPedro Henrique P. Machado SouzaMateus Rodrigues de Souza
Mauricio de Oliveira Santos NetoTaylor KettlerTainan Dalpra Costa
Brian GiorgioDante Daniel Cano JuniorGabriel Kutianski Gonzalez Vieira
Lucas Gualberto Gomes NascimentoGustavo Estebam Dos SantosLucas 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 / RoosterPURPLE / Adult / Male / RoosterPurple / Adult / Male / Rooster
João Gabriel Batista de SousaThalison Vitorino SoaresFrancisco Jonas Borges Andrade
Deandre Villarama CorbeShoya IshiguroThalison Vitorino Soares
Hiroki SugimotoCory WalkerJohnif de Oliveira Rocha
Ryan Galvan  Kevin MartincowskiSolomon William Blanch

PURPLE / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherPURPLE / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherPurple / Adult / Male / Light-Feather
Kennedy Leonardo MacielDiego Oliveira BatistaLucas Batista Rodrigues
Jonata Gomes RamosLucas Emanuel da SilvaRaul Barbosa Basílio
Francisco Jonas Borges AndradeBruno Campos XavierMeyram Maquiné Alves
Malachi James C. EdmondJoão Victor de Oliveira CostaRony Rezende Fialho

PURPLE / Adult / Male / FeatherPURPLE / Adult / Male / FeatherPurple / Adult / Male / Feather
João Pedro Bueno MendesVictor Nithael de Oliveira MarquesJose Mathias Macedo de Lira Luna
Guilherme G. Borges O. da RochaGuilherme G. Borges O. da RochaJulio Souza Arantes
Italo Moura de AzevedoDaniel de Oliveira Amorim JuniorIsrael de Sousa Almeida
Pedro Iahnke de Oliveira CrixelJose Mathias Macedo de Lira LunaMarlon Ribeiro Silva Ferreira

PURPLE / Adult / Male / LightPURPLE / Adult / Male / LightPurple / Adult / Male / Light
Paulo Gabriel Martins da CostaJonnatas Gracie Araujo da SilvaSamuel Nagai Hatchwell
Angelo Dequan ClaiborneLucas Gualberto Gomes NascimentoJohnatha Barbosa Alves
Gustavo Khouri MaronJosé Matheus M. de L. LunaItalo Moura de Azevedo
Moribe ShinsukeMatheus Lucas Rocha de OliveiraJosé Matheus Macedo de Lira Luna

PURPLE / Adult / Male / MiddlePURPLE / Adult / Male / MiddlePurple / Adult / Male / Middle
Matheus Francisco LutesMauricio de Oliveira Santos NetoRonaldo Pereira de Souza Júnior
Kauan Argimon BarbozaAlex Munis dos SantosRafael dos Anjos Torres
Tarik HopstockJake Michael WatsonLucas Gualberto Gomes Nascimento
Thomas John KeenanTarik HopstockPedro Henrique Maia Costa

PURPLE / Adult / Male / Medium-HeavyPURPLE / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy

Purple / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy

Fellipe Andrew Leandro SilvaKaynan Casemiro DuarteIgor Tanabe Guimarães
Devhonte M. JohnsonAndrew WiltseAdam Bradley
Hugh FletcherCharles TsakhAlexander Baffoun
Sean CoatesSean CoatesPablo Estepa

PURPLE / Adult / Male / HeavyPURPLE / Adult / Male / HeavyPurple / Adult / Male / Heavy
Vinicius Ferreira GazolaWilson Moreira Costa JuniorRoberto Francisco Jimenez
Gustavo Espindola BatistaSky LovellDarin Conner Deangelis
Marcelo Gomide OliveiraBruno Filipe Santos LimaCarlos Diaz
Marcus Vinicius SiqueiraMarcus Vinicius SiqueiraChristopher Passerrello

PURPLE / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyPURPLE / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyPurple / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy
Victor Hugo Costa MarquesDevhonte M. JohnsonAndré Luiz Novaes Porfirio
Kristóf SzucsFábio Angnes AlanoBrian Giorgio
Lukas Friend PollardEric Jasper BergmannBilal Benmahammed
Matheus Felipe da Silva XavierJosé Manuel Eyo OrtegaMarcos Carrozzino

PURPLE / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyPURPLE / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyPurple / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy
Fábio Angnes AlanoVictor Hugo Costa MarquesMason Fowler
Dennis AndraPedro Alex dos Santos PimentaAustin Baker
Chad LutuGabe SalinasAleksandr Sak
Mikko VeijonenLuis Eduardo Lopes do CarmoPedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta

PURPLE / Adult / Male / Open ClassPURPLE / Adult / Male / Open ClassPurple / Adult / Male / Open Class
Victor Hugo Costa MarquesJonnatas Gracie Araujo da SilvaRoberto Francisco Jimenez
Fábio Angnes AlanoVictor Hugo Costa MarquesMason Fowler
Devhonte M. JohnsonLuis Eduardo Lopes do CarmoPedro Alex dos Santos Pimenta
Fellipe Andrew Leandro SilvaTarik HopstockRonaldo 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 / RoosterBROWN / Adult / Male / RoosterBrown / Adult / Male / Rooster
Jose Carlos Souza Lima SobrinhoHiago Gama SousaCícero Lívio Ribeiro Saldanha Paiva
Hiago Gama SousaPedro Paulo Dias ClementinoCarlos Alberto Oliveira Da Silva
Alexis Alduncin BarraganNobuhiro SawadaMasayuki Yoshioka
Matheus Viana MagalhãesWellington Alex da SilvaSuraj Kumar Budhram

BROWN / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherBROWN / Adult / Male / Light-FeatherBrown / Adult / Male / Light-Feather
Cleber de Sousa FernandesAlexssandro Pinto SodréKennedy Leonardo Maciel
Rodrigo Carvalho Coutinho Diniz CostaEric Cong PhanMalachi James C. Edmond
Pablo Mantovani DutraKennedy Leonardo MacielIgor Almeida
Wellington Alex da SilvaPablo Mantovani DutraRafael Doerzapff Marques

BROWN / Adult / Male / FeatherBROWN / Adult / Male / FeatherBrown / Adult / Male / Feather
Shane Jamil Hill-TaylorJoão Paulo Gonçalves NetoMatheus Gabriel Pinheiro Barros
Richar Emiliano NogueiraJoão Pedro Bueno MendesRichar Emiliano Nogueira
Edmaicon Moraes Pinto da SilvaFelipe Linhares ArrudaJoão Pedro Bueno Mendes
Franck HartMarlus Salgado de SouzaMurilo Guimarães do Amaral

BROWN / Adult / Male / LightBROWN / Adult / Male / LightBrown / Adult / Male / Light
Renato Forasieppi Alves CanutoHugo Doerzapff MarquesLevi Jones-Leary
Pedro RamalhoDante LeonLeonardo da Silva Guimaraes
Hugo Doerzapff MarquesLeonardo Teixeira LaraBruno Bressan Garcia
Lucas Sette C. Valente TobiasPedro RamalhoGuilherme Cleovan da Rosa

BROWN / Adult / Male / MiddleBROWN / Adult / Male / MiddleBrown / Adult / Male / Middle
Isaque Bahiense BrazEduardo Bernardo TinocoLeonardo Teixeira Lara
Rolando Villanueva SamsonRolando Villanueva SamsonJonnatas Gracie Araujo da Silva
Servio Tulio C. Guimarães JunqueiraLucas Sette C. Valente TobiasMatheus Francisco Lutes
Tommy Lilleskog LangakerMax Leonard LindbladTarik Hopstock

BROWN / Adult / Male / Medium-HeavyBROWN / Adult / Male / Medium-HeavyBrown / Adult / Male / Medium-Heavy
Horlando de Jesus MonteiroRudson Mateus Sarmento TelesMauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto
Matheus Godoy RomeroGustavo Espindola BatistaGabriel Henrique dos S Oliveira
Gerard Piotr LabinskiMichael Anthony PerezDominique L. Bell
Hunter Xavier Kainalu EwaldMichael TrassoGabriel Salles Muniz Almeida

BROWN / Adult / Male / HeavyBROWN / Adult / Male / HeavyBrown / Adult / Male / Heavy
Nicholas de Barcellos MeregaliVinicius Ferreira GazolaKaynan Casemiro Duarte
Jesse Juhani UrholinGabriel Salles Muniz AlmeidaHarryson Santana Pereira
Rafael Vasconcelos de LimaFellipe Andrew Leandro SilvaMarcelo Gomide Oliveira
Samuel Christian RiceVitor Roberto Cheloni MelloVinicius Ferreira Gazola

BROWN / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyBROWN / Adult / Male / Super-HeavyBrown / Adult / Male / Super-Heavy
Max dos Santos GimenisGutemberg de Jesus Santos PereiraDevhonte M. Johnson
Fernando Andrade dos ReisGerard Piotr LabinskiWaldyr Alberto Costa Santos Filho
Helton Jose Mendes da Silva JuniorPerttu Tapio TepponenAnton Minenko
Louis Mario VillarrealQuentin E. LeahyMarcus Vinicius Ribeiro de Siqueira

BROWN / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyBROWN / Adult / Male / Ultra-HeavyBrown / Adult / Male / Ultra-Heavy
Felipe Augusto Farias BezerraMatheus Felipe da Silva XavierVictor Hugo Costa Marques
Marcus Antonio Guedes SalernoRenan Marcel Rodrigues VieiraLuis Eduardo Lopes do Carmo
Casey William HellenbergCasey William HellenbergDenis Roberts
Pedro Paulo Campi AgrizziGuilherme Wilson S. CordiviolaMatheus Felipe da Silva Xavier

BROWN / Adult / Male / Open ClassBROWN / Adult / Male / Open ClassBrown / Adult / Male / Open Class
Nicholas de Barcellos MeregaliRudson Mateus Sarmento TelesKaynan Casemiro Duarte
Isaque Bahiense BrazPerttu Tapio TepponenVictor Hugo Costa Marques
Max dos Santos GimenisCasey William HellenbergMarcus Vinicius Ribeiro de Siqueira
Tommy Lilleskog LangakerGabriel Salles Muniz AlmeidaMauricio de Oliveira Santos Neto

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