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While the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds may not draw as many competitors as the World Championships in the gi, it nevertheless attracts some of the biggest, most exciting names in sport jiu-jitsu, especially in the women’s black belt division.
This year is no exception… though with some notable absences among the ranks, and a flood of tough new freshman black belts.
So, who’s missing? Most obvious is the Lady GOAT herself, Bia Mesquita. You might recall at the ADCC World Championships two months ago, she suffered a gruesome arm bar at the hands of Ffion Davies, in one of the most shocking upsets in jiu-jitsu history. Speaking of the young phenom from Wales, she is also missing from the roster. Davies may have already switched focus back to the gi, as she took gold at the Dublin and Berlin Opens.
Both Mesquita and Davies dominated their respective divisions at the No-Gi Worlds last year, with Mesquita claiming the open class title as well. Also missing from this year’s adult black belt lineup are Luanna Alzuguir, Nathiely de Jesus, Andresa Correa, Patricia Fontes, and Ana Carolina “Baby” Viera, all former No-Gi world champions.
Regardless, the adult black belt division is just as strong as it was last year, thanks to a heavy influx of new faces. As we’ve seen before, the freshman black belts are not to be taken lightly… and this year’s roster is chock-full of brown belt No-Gi World Champions, including Amber Rymarz-freitas (Rooster), Patrícia Magalhães Machado (Light-Feather), Hannah Sharp (Light), Thamara Ferreira Silva (Middle), Kendall Marie Reusing (Super-Heavy), Julia Boscher Seixas Pinto (Medium-Heavy).
It's safe to say that not only will there be a major changing of the guard for the top spots on the podium this year in many of the weight divisions, but there will definitely be a new absolute champion.
Who do we have our eyes for the absolute title?
Jessica Flowers - As the black belt absolute champion in 2017 and vice-champion in 2018, Flowers is undoubtedly a top contender. The seasoned Gracie Barra black belt is familiar face on both the gi and no-gi circuits, and lost last year's title to Mesquita by mere advantages.
Amanda Loewen - Remember that crazy standing guillotine against Checkmat superstar Catherine Perret last year? That was Loewen. The underrated American black belt has hit the podium in the absolute division three years running, and will be hungry to win it this year.
Kendall Reusing - Don’t sleep on this Gracie Barra freshman black belt. A California native, Reusing won double-gold last year in both the brown belt super-heavy and open class, with some of the most exciting matches of the division.
Julia Boscher - Another freshman black belt, Boscher was the brown belt medium-heavy champion last year, and won both her weight division and the absolute title in the CBJJ Brazilian Nationals No-Gi in the last three years (twice at brown).
The adult black belt division aside, this year’s No-Gi Worlds has record numbers of female athletes registered to compete, giving you a pretty good indication of just how fast women’s jiu-jitsu is growing overall.
Let’s take a look at the stats. The final count for women entered in both the adult and master’s divisions this year was 474, compared to 390 last year. That’s an incredible 21.5 percent increase.
Notably, most of that is coming from the master’s divisions. Compared to a still quite significant 18.4 percent increase in just the adult division registrations, the women’s master’s divisions swelled by nearly 27 percent.
This can largely be attributed to the IBJJF’s decision in 2017 to add additional masters divisions for women. Prior to that, only 81 women had signed up in the Master 1 division. This year, there are 184 women registered in the Master 1 to Master 5 divisions combined, a mind-blowing 127 percent increase.
With record numbers of women competing, a ton of new faces, and some familiar faces missing, this year’s No-Gi Worlds has the potential to be one of the most exciting yet.