I have a confession: I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes growing up. I told my Mom that I wanted to be a detective when I grew up, and I trotted around the house with a magnifying glass looking for mysteries to solve. It turned out there wasn’t much work for a six year-old Chilean Sherlock Holmes, so I never got to pull the trigger on living the full Sherlock Holmes experience, roaming around England, living exciting and mysterious adventures.
Until Reilly Bodycomb came along.
I first met Reilly at a seminar at 50/50 a few months earlier. A mutual interest in both grappling and Magic: the Gathering (a trading card game) led us to becoming friends very quickly. When Polaris booked Reilly to appear in their second event, I saw my chance. I talked my wife into going, and then I talked Reilly into putting some pandas on his shorts. In truth, it didn’t take much to convince either of them. Hillary loves grappling as much as I do and was excited to see a Polaris event in person, and Reilly saw that we would have a lot of time to play Magic.
And this is where Nelson Holmes got to come out: I’ve been to many grappling events, but I hadn’t been behind the scenes of an event as large or as ambitious as Polaris. With names like Scramble and Tatami working to make the organization the future of professional grappling, I was curious to see what it look like under the hood, and being there with Reilly was a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
As Polaris approached, Reilly flew into New Jersey from California to teach a seminar at Chris Ulbricht’s school, Garden State BJJ. While he was in town, we visited Zombie BJJ in Allentown, PA to get some training in with Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley. Matt has a body type close to Eddie Cumming’s, and Reilly wanted some extra training time. Matt obliged, of course, and he also gave us an inside look at what we could expect out of Baret Yoshida (that’s a story in itself, which you can watch in this quick video here).
England was an experience. After Reilly used the 10 hour flight as an opportunity to pitch me on sponsoring his own tournament idea—clever move on his part—we designated Hillary to tackle the challenge of London driving (oh boy). We hit up some seminars and headed out to Cardiff, which is where the real Polaris experience really began.
The city of Cardiff is built around a giant castle. We don’t have many of those in Chile or in New Jersey, so that was jarring, but it was oddly appropriate. The rich history of where the tournament was located could be a reflection for the tradition of combat sports in general. It felt sophisticated, regal even. This was something to be taken seriously and that could someday be a part of a new jiu-jitsu history that was going to be written right before our eyes.
The event itself was well-organized. The fighters were taken care of and looked out for. We knew where to go and where to be, and we had plenty of mat space to warm-up. That might sound like a weird thing to note, but once you spend a few events backstage at a local MMA event you start to appreciate how big of a deal having mat space to warm-up on can be.
Backstage, while we waited for Reilly’s fight to come up, the other fighters in the room were just as big of fans of the sport as we were. By that I mean they watched the matches and the commercials and got excited just like a fan in the audience would. The Baret Yoshida and Robson Moura match had guys like the Raspberry Ape paying close attention. Here we were surrounded by some of the top names in the sport, and they were just as giddy about a great technique as anyone else. This may have been by design with the matchmaking, so I have to give Polaris credit here as well.
We had a five-minute warning before Reilly’s match, which was good news for me because my legs were already pretzels by that point. When the match started, Reilly’s gameplan seemed to be working. He was able to engage with Eddie while still avoiding leg control, but Reilly couldn’t quite enter his top rock position. Eddie eventually snuck in a slick sitting scissor and managed to catch the far foot. From there, he climbed his legs up and did what Eddie does.
It was tough to see Reilly lose, but we all know that it’s one of the gambles you take when you accept a tough match. Reilly handled it with class of course, and we set out to find some beer for me and a burger for Reilly (I would later spend far too much money on liquor at the duty free shop).
Polaris was a great show, which is clear from the outside. I was happy to see that it was just as polished from the inside, from the weigh-ins to the rules meeting to the actual event. As far as mystery’s go, I didn’t get to chase down the jiu-jitsu version of Professor Moriarty, but I did get to assemble more pieces of the professional grappling puzzle than I would have as a spectator. I’m looking forward to Polaris 3 and really hope that we can be involved somehow. Polaris is doing it right and here’s to hoping they have continued success.