2022 Pan IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship

The Year Of The Comeback: 4 IBJJF Greats To Return For No-Gi Pans

The Year Of The Comeback: 4 IBJJF Greats To Return For No-Gi Pans

At No-Gi Pans 2022, four athletes are expected to return to an IBJJF major for the first time after retirements, gym openings, life milestones, and more.

Oct 10, 2022 by Erica Zendell
The Year Of The Comeback: 4 IBJJF Greats To Return For No-Gi Pans

The 2022 IBJJF No Gi Pan Championships have no shortage of debut black belts, usual suspects, and heavy-hitters ready to grace the mats this weekend. These four names stand out among the rest as having a different path–or in their case, path back–onto the competition scene for the first time in a while. They'll be worth the watch as they showcase their skills for the first time in years. 

Michael Langhi (Middleweight)

Three-time World Champion Michael Langhi (2009, 2010, 2015) formally announced his retirement at the 2019 IBJJF World Championship after an illustrious eleven years of competition at black belt. His quarterfinal match in the Long Beach Pyramid against then-rising star Renato Canuto had been the last fans expected to see of Langhi on the IBJJF adult circuit.

Short of a one-off superfight against Claudio Mattos at BJJ Stars in 2021, there had been little indication that Langhi might come out of retirement to return to the competition scene in a significant way–and certainly not in a no-gi tournament. 

Yet Langhi, who manages Alliance Sao Paulo HQ alongside Fabio Gurgel, is clearly doing more than coaching an academy full of killers like Marcus Scooby and Dimitrius Sousa. He’s been sharpening his own swords ahead of IBJJF No-Gi Pans.

Despite years of competitive success, Langhi has never competed at No-Gi Pans in his 14 years at black belt. However, Langhi did win the last IBJJF No-Gi major in which he competed; in 2015, he took gold at lightweight at No-Gi Worlds, defeating four opponents, including Garry Tonon, to reach the top of the podium

Langhi has primarily been known for his spider guard game in the gi, so it will be interesting to see how his no-gi game stacks up at middleweight, which icludes ADCC veterans such as Atos’ Michael Perez and New Wave’s Oliver Taza.

If Langhi’s No-Gi Worlds performance in 2015 is any indication of what to expect, he'l be chasing for back attacks, either off of pressure passes from top position or off of inversions and leg entanglements from his guard. 

Nathiely de Jesus (Super Heavyweight)

Nathiely de Jesus, a perennial favorite among female competitors, recently added a new title to her list of accomplishments: mother. De Jesus had her first child, a baby girl, in December 2021. 

De Jesus concluded her “maternity leave” and dipped her toes back into competition in the gi at the Austin Summer Open in July 2022, where she submitted her two opponents via armbar for Open Class gold. No-Gi Pans will be de Jesus’ first no-gi competition since her pregnancy, but it is far from the Texas-based competitor’s first rodeo: she won No-Gi Worlds in both 2016 and 2018.

A two-time, double gold black belt World Champion in the gi (2018, 2019), Nathiely de Jesus’ last significant no-gi match was at Who’s Number One: Craig Jones v Ronaldo Junior in March 2021. She had a standout performance against Gabi Garcia, defeating the 4x ADCC champion by unanimous decision. 

We can only wonder how de Jesus might have performed in ADCC 2022 against rising 60+kg stars like Giovanna Jara and newly-crowned champion Amy Campo. But Nathieley may have a chance to measure herself against ADCC silver medalist and 2021 No-Gi World champ Rafaela Guedes, if both women enter the absolute division at Pans. Guedes is currently the only registered competitor in the Heavyweight division and de Jesus only has one opponent in the Super Heavyweight division: Mayara Custodio, the reigning No-Gi World champ at super heavy.  

Though De Jesus has faced many of the most dominant competitors in the heavier weight classes over the years, including Kendall Reusing, Maria Malyjasiak, Gabrieli Pessanha (and as previously mentioned, Gabi Garcia), she has not yet faced Custodio or Guedes. In the Super Heavyweight matchup against Custodio and a possible open class matchup against Guedes, de Jesus’ guard and leg lock offense will pose an interesting challenge for the top game- and pressure-oriented competitors in Custodio and Guedes.

Competing at No Gi Pans 2022 will be a family affair for the new mother. de Jesus’ husband, Manuel Ribamar, is also registered for the tournament in the Medium Heavy division, which currently includes Jeferson Guaresi, Sebastian Rodriguez, and Gabriel Arges among its standout contenders. Ribamar won his first No-Gi World title in 2019.

Bruno Frazatto (Featherweight)

A four-time IBJJF World Medalist in the gi and 2015 ADCC -66kg runner-up, Bruno Frazatto has been lying low in the last few years. The last time Frazatto was active on the professional scene was in 2019, where he competed in a few IBJJF Opens and at ADCC 2019, where he notably faced Tye Ruotolo in a clash-of-generations matchup in the first round of the -66kg division. 

Since 2019, Frazatto has opened up his own academy (Atos Atlanta) and dedicated his focus toward growing his business and coaching an up-and-coming competition team, currently including 2022 Blue Belt World Champions, Cash and Guy Ficker, and rising star Alex Enriquez, who won No-Gi Pans and No-Gi Worlds at Brown Belt in 2021 and is making her IBJJF black belt majors debut at No-Gi Pans 2022.

Prior to 2019-2022, Frazatto’s last-longest break from the professional jiu-jitsu circuit was while focusing on his MMA career between 2013-2015. In his more recent break, Frazatto never fully stepped away from jiu-jitsu competition: he's stayed active in masters competition, where he won both No-Gi Pans and No-Gi Worlds in 2021 in dominant fashion at Masters 2 Featherweight.

At this year’s No-Gi Pans, he has set his sights higher–and younger–by registering for the Adult Featherweight division. Frazatto could find just the challenge he’s looking for in a possible matchup against ADCC 2022’s -66kg runner up, Gabriel Sousa, and a rematch against multi-time Pan No-Gi and World No-Gi champion, Gianni Grippo.

Keenan Cornelius (Super Heavyweight)

If there’s one No-Gi Pans registrant who most elicits a “long time, no see” among jiu-jitsu fans, it’s Keenan Cornelius. The last time we saw Keenan  in an IBJJF competition was at the 2020 European Championships, where he took home the gold in the heavyweight division. 

When it comes to getting back on the mat for no gi competition, Keenan has had some rough luck over the last three years: “super pinkeye” prevented him from competing at ADCC 2019 and a back injury took him away from his No-Gi matchup against Haisam Rida at WNO in June 2021. The last time Keenan competed in a no-gi tournament was three years ago at No-Gi Pans 2019, where he came away with silver in the super heavyweight division and a gold medal in the absolute division. 

Similar to Frazatto, Cornelius has also been less active on the competition scene while opening and growing his own academy, the now-three-year-old Legion Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego. 

Because most people associate Keenan Cornelius with his signature lapel guards, it’s easy to forget that Keenan is equally dangerous — and most decorated — without the gi; Keenan won No-Gi Worlds in 2014 and is a three-time ADCC veteran, with podium finishes in 2013 (3rd place: -88kg and absolute), 2015 (runner up: -88kg), and 2017 (runner up: -88kg). 

Despite his time away from the tournament scene, Cornelius won't be considered a dark horse at 2022 No-Gi Pans. Keenan is one of the most experienced competitors in the Super Heavy division and is 2-0 in his matchups against the returning champ and favorite: Devhonte Johnson, who won both Pan No-Gi and World No-Gi championships in 2021.