Canadian grappler Ethan Crelinsten has been quietly kicking butt for a while now. A Gracie Nationals champ as a brown belt and a 135-pound Finishers winner, this Tristar Gym/Renzo Gracie athlete has been making waves in the sub-only scene for quite some time, and those who had been following his progress probably weren’t too surprised when he won the ADCC West Coast Trials earlier this year.
But if your reaction to hearing his name announced as the victor was “Who’s that guy?”, it’s time to start paying attention.
Those who follow team Renzo Gracie athletes for their social media antics shouldn’t hope to find the same type of posts from Crelinsten that they see from Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan (both of whom will also be competing at ADCC this year). While Crelinsten does update his friends and fans about tournament results and upcoming competitions and seminars, he seems to prefer to let his jiu-jitsu make all the noise for him… sometimes quite literally.
As he made his way through the Trials, Crelinsten made international headlines even on non-jiu-jitsu-related news outlets when his opponent, Dimitri Salem, allowed a kimura to go too far, causing a sickening snap to ring out and audiences around the world to cringe.
Still, that win contributed to his overall victory at the event, and since then, Crelinsten has been preparing for ADCC at the end of September while still staying busy in the meantime. He’s competed at Sapateiro, the Onnit, Global Grappling League, and Toro Cup since his big win, but he knows he’ll be up against even tougher opponents when he travels to Finland. Other competitors in the under-66kg bracket include Paulo Miyao, Eddie Cummings, Bruno Frazatto, AJ Agazarm, Baret Yoshida, and Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes (plus many other decorated grapplers). Crelinsten knows that while he’s made a name for himself at smaller events, he’s not exactly walking into this competition with the odds in his favor. “I’m the underdog. I’m not supposed to win, so it takes some pressure off. But at the same time, ADCC gold is a life-changer,” he says, adding that he feels “excited” as he looks ahead to the event.
I’m the underdog. I’m not supposed to win, so it takes some pressure off. But at the same time, ADCC gold is a life-changer.
Given that competing at ADCC requires you to be either invited, a Trials winner, or the previous year’s champion, it goes without saying that none of the athletes competing there are going to have an easy match. Crelinsten is well aware of this, but he still has his fingers crossed that he’ll be able to go head-to-head with one of his favorite grapplers. “Facing [Rubens Charles Maciel] ‘Cobrinha’ would be an honour and an incredible challenge,” he says. Given that Cobrinha won ADCC last year, Crelinsten will definitely have his work cut out for him if his wish comes true.
Even though Crelinsten might not be the favorite to win his division, it would also be foolish to dismiss him as having no chance of winning. He’s been working day in and day out to improve his abilities, and he’s feeling the effects we’re all hoping to see.
I feel like my game has improved and changed since one week ago. The Ethan from the Trials would be shocked at how much I’ve improved to this day.
Crelinsten passed the comment off as a joke, but his track record is suggesting that there’s nothing to laugh about when it comes to his progress — he recently defeated 10th Planet standouts Marvin Castelle and Nathan Orchard at Grappling Pro and Sub Series Promotions, respectively. He’s earned his spot among the big names at ADCC this year, and even though he knows that gold medal is a long shot, he’s sure to give his opponents a run for their money.
Crelinsten may be humble about his own achievements and chances at victory, but he has the utmost confidence in his team. Many other Renzo Gracie athletes will be battling for their position on the podium once September 23 rolls around, and Crelinsten says that the team could “absolutely” take home four gold medals. “I believe in the team and our preparation,” he says.
No matter what happens at ADCC, you can be sure it won’t be the last you’ll see of this young up-and-coming grappling star. This event might be the highlight of his career so far, but for someone who’s achieved so much in such a short span of time, it’s only the beginning.