With the Gi season at an end after the recent IBJJF World Championships, we, at Fighters Market Europe have compiled a list of first year Black belts in Europe who have impressed us the most this past season. Some of these names will be extremely obvious and the future of European Jiu Jitsu looks extremely exciting!
Tommy Langaker // Norway // Kimura Nova Uniao
A serial medallist during his coloured belt years, including winning the Europeans and Pan Ams in 2017 at brown belt, along with placing at the worlds at brown belt. Langaker also made a splash on Copa Podio with team mate Espen Mathiessen. After being promoted to black belt, Langaker took a couple of golds including the Paris open and Scandinavian Championships, however his coming out party took place at the IBJJF Europeans where he submitted black belt world super heavy champion Erberth Santos in the open weight. He managed to take third place in the absolutes, which he repeated at the IBJJF Pan Ams. Sandwiched between those performances was a quick submission win on Polaris Invitational. Tommy was one to watch going into the World Championships, but no one would have predicted what happened next. Tommy managed to take out both of 2017 finalists spectacularly on route to the finals where he lost a close match to Isaque Bahinse via 2 points.
Gerard Labinski // Poland // NS Brotherhood
Currently based in São Paulo training out Leandro Lo’s NS Brotherhood academy, Gerard Labinski had an extremely successful brown belt career, winning the IBJJF Sul Americano, and IBJJF Pan Ams in 2017. He would also place 2nd at the IBJJF World Championships. After being promoted to Black belt by Leandro Lo, Gerard would take Gold in u110kg division at the UAEJJF Rio Grandslam, in his first black belt competition beating seasoned world level blackbelts in the process such as Ricardo Evangelista. He would also place second at the UAEJJF London Grandslam via a razor close refs decision and take Gold at the IBJJF London winter Open!
Espen Matthiessen // Norway // Kimura Nova Uniao
Like his team mate Tommy, Espen has been dominating the coloured belts, he conquered the IBJJF Europeans and Pan Ams in 2017 at Brown Belt. Arguably his biggest achievement at brown belt could be said to be his second-place finish at the Copa Podio Lightweight Grand Prix, which involved some of the best brown and black lightweights. Success has continued into his black belt competition career, winning the IBJJF Copenhagen Open. However, 2018 has seen Espen truly shock the world first at the UAEJJF Abu Dhabi World Championship beating notables such as Edwin Najmi and Jake McKenzie in the finals. He followed on this performance with a Bronze medal at the world championships beating world class veterans such as Atos’s Michael Liera Jr and submitting Edwin Najmi, before losing a close match with probably the greatest lightweight of all time in Lucas Lepri. A future world champion for sure!
Samantha Cook // GBR // Checkmat
Based in London, England, Samantha an athlete from Fightzone London, has had a strong rookie year at black belt. After a stellar brown belt career where she won the IBJJF Europeans twice, placed 2nd at the IBJJF World Nogi, won quadruple gold in Rome, (double gold in the IBJJF Rome Open and double gold in the European Nogi Championships) and finished up her brown belt tenure by qualifying for ADCC and winning double silver at the World Championships in 2017. Black belt has proven no big jump for the Checkmat athlete winning her Superfight at the prestigious Polaris invitational and then winning her first IBJJF competition, the London open! She would follow this on with a Gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Leg of the UAEJJF Grand Slam tour. After an injury she would return at the IBJJF World Championships winning two matches before losing to the dominant Ana Vieira Srour in the semi-finals coming away with a bronze medal. An extremely big accomplishment for a first year black belt!
Max Lindblad // Sweden // Prana Jiu Jitsu
After a very successful brown belt career where he managed to win the UAEJJF World Pro, place second at the Europeans and third at the IBJJF World Championships, Max continued his success into his first year at black belt, where in his first IBJJF competition, the German Nationals, he took gold beating fellow top Rookie Espen Mathiesen. He would then follow this on with another Gold at the IBJJF London Open and bookend his 1st black belt year with double golds at the Nordic and Finnish open against top quality opposition. His 2018 world championships were cut short though, losing his second match to fellow Rookie notable Tommy Langaker, but a successful year none the less and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for one of Europe’s top black belts.