Gabi Pessanha: Top Brown Belt In The World & Future of Women's Jiu-Jitsu

The 18-year-old Brazilian brown belt Gabrieli Pessanha is a star in the making and has proved in the last year that she is one of the best female athletes in the world, regardless of belt color. 

After winning the double grand slam in 2018 (golds medals in weight and absolute divisions at the IBJJF Europeans, Pans, Brazilian Nationals and World Championships) she was promoted to brown belt. 

Due to her young age and IBJJF promotion requirements of serving 18 months as a purple belt before able to compete at brown, Pessanha found herself ineligible to compete for IBJJF and so directed her attention to the UAEJJF circuit. 

Gold medals at every one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam tournaments followed, with Pessanha clearing up in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Rio, Abu Dhabi and London. 

And she capped off the 2018-2019 UAEJJF season with gold at the Abu Dhabi World Pro and a $6,000 cash prize along with the no.1 position in the global ranking, an achievement that earned her $10,000. That's a total of $16 grand– and yet some people claim there's no money in jiu-jitsu. 

At the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi for the end of season awards gala

In March she returned to IBJJF, where she promptly took double gold at brown belt. She aims to repeat the feat at Brazilian nationals in May and Worlds in June. 

And if she does, we've been told she could well receive her black belt on the podium. 

And why not? Over the last year she has faced two-time black belt IBJJF World champion Nathiely de Jesus no less than three times, winning every encounter. It would be pointless to make her complete the entire year as a brown belt once over just because of promotion requirements. 

Instead, Pessanha will continue to invest in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam tour (now known as the AJP Tour) and will be heading to Moscow in June for the first Grand Slam in Russia. 

For an 18-year-old who hails from one of the most notorious areas of Rio de Janeiro, the money she has made this last year and stands to make over the coming season is– no exaggeration– life-changing. She has been catapulted from teenage hopeful to one of the top professionals in the world in a single season. 

Her track record this past year shows there is little competition for her. Only Nathiely has come close enough to make it their matches competitive, and Pessanha still finds a way to win every time. 

The gold-medal winning triangle that saw Pessanha become 2019 Abu Dhabi World Pro champion

Pessanha is a rare talent. She is a fierce competitor, athletically gifted, technically solid in every area and physically capable of mixing it up with anybody. Her main weapons are her fearsome collar drag takedown and her attacks from guard, but she is equally proficient at playing top and plays both a heavy top game and and has a killer back control. 

There are few– if any– holes in her game at this point and it will take a high-level opponent to expose them. Whether she will find them soon is another matter– it may not be until 2020 when she regularly competes as a black belt that becomes a reality. 

By then, she will have developed as an athlete and a competitor and she may be so far ahead of the competition that her success could eclipse what she has managed to do in this past year. 

Based on her performance over the last 12 months and an assessment of her potential, Gabrieli Pessanha stands to become not just a future black belt world champion, but possible one of the greatest female competitors of all time.

Watch Pessanha's gold medal run at 2019 Abu Dhabi World Pro:

Quarterfinal: Gabrieli Pessanha vs Shantelle Thompson

Semifinal: Gabrieli Pessanha vs Nathiely de Jesus 

Final: Gabrieli Pessanha vs Claire France-Thevenon 

Bonus matches:

Gabrieli Pessanha vs Marta Szarecka 2019 ADGS London

Gabrieli Pessanha vs Francisca Flores 2018 ADGS Rio 

Training:

Gabi Pessanha Rolling in Rio with Male Brown Belt

Read: 

From The City Of God To Gold At Worlds: A Teenager's Dream Comes True 

9 Of The Best Submission Finishers Heading Into ADCC 2019

The ADCC World Championships have always been about more than simply winning and losing, it is a spectacle designed to put on a show for the fans and find out who the best grapplers are in the world. The 2017 version of ADCC was full of high paced matches and some incredible submissions, with the lineup this time around it looks like it could be even more exciting. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Rudson Rips On An Armbar For Fastest-Ever F2W Main Event Finish

It was one the fastest submission finish ever seen in a Fight 2 Win main event when Rudson Mateus defeated Gutemberg Pereira in his F2W debut in San Jose, California, last weekend. 

Every Name Invited/Qualified For ADCC 2019 World Championship (Updated)

[Updated September 16, 2019] Here is a list of every person who qualified for or has been invited to the ADCC World Championships, to be held in Los Angeles in September 2019. 

Mega-Weekend Results Recap: Asian Open, LA Grand Slam, No-Gi Pans & F2W 125

We haven't seen a weekend this busy in the jiu-jitsu world since Worlds! 

All Of Keenan's Matches From The 2019 IBJJF Pan No-Gi

Keenan Cornelius competed at the 2019 IBJJF No-Gi Pans and used the event to test out some new no-gi strategies ahead of ADCC– with some success, and some failure. 

Cornelius, Hallock Take No-Gi Pan Absolute Divisions

The adult black belt divisions wrapped up at No-Gi Pans on Saturday night in New York and featured dominant performances in the male and female open classes by Keenan Cornelius and Laurah Hallock. 

Everybody Gets Tapped! Brown Belt Shootout at 2019 IBJJF No-Gi Pans

The brown belt divisions were a non-stop flurry of action today at the 2019 IBJJF Pan No-Gi. Submissions were flying, especially in the absolute division. Let’s break down one of the craziest sequence of matches... 

ADCC Competitors At No-Gi Pans: The Good And Bad

Seven athletes competing at the 2019 ADCC World Championships competed on Saturday at the IBJJF Pan No-Gi, five in the black belt division and two at brown belt. None of the seven ADCC athletes ended up fighting each other and they ended up with three gold medals, two silver and two bronze. 

Road To Gold: Ruan Alvarenga

Ruan Alvarenga from Alliance Marcelo Garcia was on fire at No-Gi Pans this morning, tapping his way through the brown belt featherweight division. Ruan won the ADCC South American trials to qualify for ADCC later this month but still signed up for No-Gi Pans just a couple weeks out from ADCC. If he was looking at this event as a warm-up for ADCC it certainly worked out for him as he barely broke a sweat on his way to gold.

No-Gi Pans Results and Recap: Keenan's Experiment Fails, Trator Takes Gold

The plan for Keenan at the 2019 Pan IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship was to test out the new techniques and strategies he has been learning with John Danaher and Gordon Ryan at Renzo's gym over the last three weeks.