Black belts ready to fight at Marianas Open

April 15, 2016 by  
Filed under BJJ Stuff, Onra, Special Forces


The Marianas Open brought some of the top-tier talent in Brazilian jiujitsu to Guam to compete in the Absolute Black Belt Championship — eight competitors from all over the world, including 2015 Marianas Open champion Keenan Cornelius.

“It’s always a pleasure to come back to Guam,” said Cornelius. “I’ve been here three times now and I like it more and more every time. I actually train with a lot of tough guys from Guam. I think Guam is the melting pot of jiujitsu for the Pacific, so it’s great to be out here and compete with all those guys. The jiujitsu is really strong out here and I think it’s only getting stronger.”

The Marianas Open faced a setback Friday afternoon, when it was announced that another high-profile fighter, Rhalan Gracie — grandson of Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian jiujitsu — would be unable to fight due to a knee injury. Gracie’s knee had been previously injured but he was planning on making his return here in Guam. Gracie initially said that he was 50-50, but later determined that he couldn’t fight.

Though he’s disappointed he won’t be able to fight, he has enjoyed his time on Guam.

“One thing about the island lifestyle, they love jiujitsu, they love the fighting arts. They are very passionate about that,” said Gracie. “I think it’s a very good place to be and people have taken very good care of us. If you guys keep doing what you’re doing, there’s nothing but success up ahead.”


‘A gentle art’

Though not originally scheduled to fight, Guam native Jacob Guerrero was able to step up at the last minute and fight in place of Gracie.

Guerrero will be facing off against Cornelius in the first round.

Along with Guerrero, two other Guam fighters will be participating in the Marianas Open. Bryant Pangelinan was born in Guam, but currently lives and trains in Concord, California. Terrence Aflague was born in raised in Yona, where he still resides and has trained since 2001.

“Competing for the Marianas as a homegrown black belt, this is a big opportunity for me,” said Aflague. “I don’t have to travel or leave the island. I just had to jump on this opportunity and drive from Yona to Mangilao and mix it in with these guys.”

For Pangelinan, having the opportunity to come home and fight is something he’s looking forward to.

“It’s an honor to be asked to come home and fight,” he said. “After always wanting to compete on Guam, it’s almost come full circle so it’s nice. The vibe is great, everything has been perfect, and I’m just ready to get out there and represent Guam.”


Carbullido wins double gold

Three of the fighters — Felipe Pena, Guilherme Augusto Santos and Igor Schneider — traveled all the way from Brazil to fight in the Marianas Open. Santos and Schneider, both new black belts, said they were excited to be on the island and were looking forward for the opportunity to pull off an upset.

Pena, however, could perhaps be the favorite to take the championship from Cornelius, though he did lose to him in the pair’s only previous meeting. A former world champion, Pena’s already claimed the European Open Championship this year. He’s enjoyed his time on Guam so far, particularly his trip to Cetti beach, but had to admit he was a caught off guard when he got the invitation to fight in the Marianas Open.

“To be honest, jiujitsu here has surprised me a lot,” said Pena. “When I got invited, I looked at the map and saw a really small island and said, ‘Man, I didn’t even know there was jiujitsu there.’ I got here and so many tough guys, a lot of black belts, and I’m happy to be a part of this tournament. I think you guys are doing a great job bringing all the athletes here.”

Along with the chance to fight in paradise, the $15,000 purse was a huge factor in getting these talented fighters to Guam. The goal is that offering big prize money will bring fighters to Guam, and in return the island’s jiujitsu scene will grow even larger.

Cornelius said from what he’s seen the past couple years, that goal is well on its way to being accomplisched.

“I think this tournament is probably one of the biggest things helping bring eyes to Guam and also helping promote jiujitsu as a whole all around the world,” he said. “This would be considered one of the top-tier tournaments for offering prize money. You guys are already on par with some of the best jiujitsu tournaments in the world. I think that’s why you are attracting such talented athletes.”

The Marianas Open is being held Saturday at the Father Duenas Phoenix Center in Mangilao. Doors open at 8 a.m., with the Absolute Black Belt Championship beginning at noon. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids.



  • Felipe Pena (BRA) vs Guilherme Augusto Santos (BRA)
  • Joel Bouhey (USA) vs Terrence Aflague (GUM)


  • Keenan Cornelius (USA) vs Jacob Guerrero (GUM)
  • Bryant Pangelinan (GUM) vs Igor Schneider (BRA)

The winners in each bracket will fight, with the winners of those fights contesting for the championship.



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