In a sport as one-sided as jiu-jitsu, where the focus rarely points to anywhere outside the US or Brazil, a small group of talented Argentines is observed. Their names: Pablo Lavaselli (black belt), Enrique March (black belt), Luca Ramaci (purple belt), Ramiro Leon (purple belt), Francisco Papasidero (purple belt) and Malena Sessa (blue belt).
Together, these young athletes tore the international battlefield – especially in the US – with Pablo and Enrique leading the pack in the black belt. Most of our readers will know Lavaselli. He had great visibility through his victories over Gianni Grippo, Johnny Tama, Gilson Nunes and Diego Ramalho, to name a few. March, on the other hand, was a success on the AJP track and in Fight 2 Win, while Luca Ramaci, Francisco Papasidero and Malena Sessa have won medals with the IBJJF at the Pan American tournament last year. The purple Ramiro Leon belt has also shown tremendous success on the No-gi track.
These athletes are not bound exclusively by their roots in Argentina, there is another common denominator shared among these talented competitors, his name is Patrick Cooligan, a black belt under Renzo Gracie and the owner of RGA Orlando, FL, who is also the master behind this Gaucho fighting bonus.
But before we turn to Mr. Cooligan, let’s start in 2014. At the time, Pablo Lavaselli was two years into his jiu-jitsu career, competing across South America as a blue belt. During this time he spent time with the famous fighting coach Cícero Costha, training at the famous PSLPB Academy in the East Wing of Sao Paulo, Brazil. While at Cícero’s Pablo he became friends with one of the top students there, André Porfirio. Fast forward a few years and Porfirio was hired by the aforementioned Patrick Cooligan as a jiu-jitsu instructor at his gym in Florida.
Porfirio was one of the first coaches / athletes Cooligan brought to Project Agora, the name of his free scholarship program at Renzo Gracie Academy Orlando. Over time, the success of Patrick’s project allowed the team to expand. Following the advice of André Porfirio, Mr. Cooligan brought some (then) much lesser known – but very talented – athletes to the team, one of these special grapplers was Pablo Lavaselli, who arrived in 2020, bringing with him Luca Ramaci .
At the beginning of the project, full-time athletes were in the vast majority of Brazil. Pablo came in as disappointing, but over time, many of the Brazilian rivals slowly moved away and the gaps left by them were filled by Argentine talent.
Even in a year dominated by COVID19 and at the slowest pace of our international sport, the talented 6 brought their four masterful returns (team specialty) and an equally impressive medal in the IBJJF Championship Among their most prominent trophies are podiums in some of the top 2020 tournaments, such as the Pan American Championship (gi) where they won 3 medals, the Pan American NOGI (2 medals) and the American Nationals (3 medals).
Not only impressive in their overall results last year, the Gauchos also brought a new sensation to the scene of the jiu-jitsu tournament, an interesting presence that differs from that of typical Brazilian and American cultures. We hope to see more of this team in the coming months, and hope to see them inspire other Argentine grappers to follow the path of jiu-jitsu.