Words - Marc Berman // Photography - Anthony Pham
“I'm always motivated to improve, not worrying about the results. It’s cool, a nice accomplishment, something I have worked towards for a while...a step in the right direction.”
Gianni Grippo is not the type of person to dwell on past success for long. Winning his first IBJJF Black Belt No-Gi World Championship is no exception to the rule. The 26 year old New Jersey native captured gold in the Lightweight division earlier this month in California. Overcoming the perennial dark horse, Masahiro Iwasaki ( by advantage 2-1) in the Quarterfinal and gritty veteran Rodrigo Freitas ( 11-0 points) in the Semifinal. A showdown in the Finals with longtime rival Marcio Andre was set
At the midway point in the match, Andre secured a sweep to take the 2-0 lead. Andre is known for being extremely difficult to score on, this could have easily been the end of Grippo’s run for gold. “I knew I was behind, the stats didn't favor me… but I trusted my game regardless of where the match went, I just really had good confidence that I was gonna make it happen.”
That trust was well-founded, as Grippo took the back position and secured his first World Championship title with a submission victory.
The World Championship No-Gi has been a tough tournament for Grippo at the Black Belt level. When asked what made this year different,“ I was able to relax more… I realized it is not gonna be perfect leading up to a competition every time, you kinda got take what you get...I take that as a challenge.”
After 5 years competing at the highest level the sport has to offer, Grippo has become a confident competitor with a deep trust in his abilities, attributing “Staying persistent, chipping away finding improvements…I am always on my toes.” to this years continued success. With lessons learned over the last half decade, what would he tell himself when his journey began as a Black Belt:
“Trust yourself more. I remembered when I first got to black belt I wanted to mimic the guys that came before me like the Mendes and the Cobrinhas….. You got to remember everyone is different. I would also try to mimic their games. Try to do everything the way they did. I realized trying to mimic someone you are trying to beat, it's only going to make you second-rate compared to them.”
Grippo will be back in action kicking off his 2019 campaign at the IBJJF European Championship in January.