Tonight, Roberto Jimenez will be making his black belt debut for Fight 2 Win tonight, hoping to continue the undefeated streak he’s been on since he earned the rank after winning No-Gi Worlds last year. Jimenez will be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career so far, going up against Lucas Barbosa in the main event of F2W 137.
Jimenez’s so-far success at black belt is impressive, but hardly surprising. He was making a name for himself even throughout his colored belt years, notably winning double-gold at Worlds as a purple belt by submitting all eleven of his opponents.
Jimenez also found success at Fight 2 Win long before this main event match against another one of the sport’s biggest stars, earning the title of the 185lb brown belt gi champion last year. His steady rise, assisted by his standout Fight 2 Win performances, was well documented, but if you only tuned in to watch the last few matches of the night, you may have missed this young star’s process of making history.
While Fight 2 Win has been one of jiu-jitsu’s most innovative promotions, its model isn’t the first of its kind. The idea of smaller, less “noteworthy” performances building up to a popular main event is popular in many industries, including music and MMA. It’s a time-tested way to get the best of both worlds: attendance and streams from locals wanting to support their friends or family members, and attendance and streams from viewers who want to see the big names on the card. Some people do watch the event the whole way through, but many others wait for the matches they want to watch and skip the lesser-known competitors on the undercard.
It’s an unfortunate, but understandable fact that as much as the undercard matches are promoted, viewers who aren’t personally invested in the matches will wait for the athletes whose names they already recognize before they tune in to a live stream. Jiu-jitsu events can be long, after all, and not everyone has the time or interest to invest in watching the entire card from the first match to the last. But if you want to watch how athletes like Roberto Jimenez become athletes like Roberto Jimenez, it’s worth your while to watch the matches that transpire long before the main event.
Fight 2 Win, in particular, tends to do a great job of finding athletes who are steadily making their way to the top, featuring them on their cards long before they break out and become household names. Competitors like Jessa Khan, John Combs, and Vanessa Wexler — all of whom have achieved significant success in their competitive BJJ careers — have competed on the Fight 2 Win stage without claiming a main event spot by default like an athlete like, say, Gordon Ryan likely would.
While main event matches are usually exciting (as they should be), there’s also plenty of action to be had earlier in the evening as well, and a crafty transition or submission is sometimes all it takes to propel a competitor into overnight stardom. Take, for example, Marvin Castelle’s now-iconic Imanari roll:
Stars like Roberto Jimenez don’t just wake up as black belts with opportunities to compete against Keenan Cornelius and Lucas Barbosa. They put in lots of hard work, leaving it all on the line to display their skills to the world at every level of jiu-jitsu. And the extensive undercards of grappling promotions is where much of the work happens. It’s a privilege to witness stars grow into their shine, and by spending a bit of time watching the purple, brown, and even blue belts testing their skills at an event, you could be witnessing jiu-jitsu history being made.
Fight 2 Win 137 will go down tonight and can be streamed live on FloGrappling.