The internet has been awash with rumours after it was announced that Otavio Sousa, reigning IBJJF world champion, had been removed from his teaching position at Gracie Barra Irvine. Sousa posted a long Facebook status, expressing his shock at what had happened, which was widely shared around the online BJJ community.
At JJS, we believe it is important to get both sides of the story. So, in the interests of objectivity, we contacted Chris Pizzo, one of the owners of Gracie Barra Irvine. This is his perspective on the situation, which he gave us permission to publish in full:
“There is actually much less drama involved than everyone thinks.
Unfortunately emotions have taken over, his ‘supporters’ and ‘friends’ rushing to unfounded and unconfirmed conclusions, and the entire situation has (as is par-for-the-course in BJJ) been blown out of proportion.
Here’s the truth no one wants to hear…
Last fall, Otavio demanded an exorbitant and inappropriate salary to stay on as head instructor.
The management team and I conceded to his demands dependent upon his ability to follow a strict schedule that was of his own creation.
In less than a month Otavio began to break his own contractual obligations by traveling to Brazil for an entire month, continued multiple unscheduled out of state seminars, and continued to shirk academy responsibilities for his own training schedule.
His frequent and often spur-of-the-moment absences had a trackable and direct effect on the retention rate of new students.
Secondly, Otavio adamantly refused to teach to the established (or any) curriculum.
Using classes as his own personal practice sessions, the jiu-jitsu of Gracie Barra headquarter’s students and instructors began to degrade to the point of frequent injury simply because they were only learning a handful of movements as opposed to an entire method.
This was brought to Otavio’s attention multiple times internally and by GB executive director Marcio Feitosa.
Finally, the ‘disrespectful’ dismissal email.
English is not Otavio’s first language. He has a phenomenal command of it, but important issues like this have always needed to written so he has a clear understanding.
While yes, he was sent a termination of employment letter, options and a plan of action were proposed to discuss further upon his return in person.
He was given an almost embarrassingly generous severance package which will allow him to focus on his training all the way up to the World Championships without any working responsibilities or financial hardships.
And it was also made clear that myself and Professor Marcio would be working with him directly to find an alternate position within the extensive Gracie Barra network that would better fit his hectic schedule.
Our lack of explanation or commentary up until this point was simply an attempt to protect Otavio’s career and future employment opportunities.
World Champion or not, what responsible business owner can have a head instructor who demands 4x as much salary as everyone else but is only there 40% of the workweek?
Otavio is a great guy, he will be missed, and I wish only the best for him in the future. However, life goes on.
Instructors need to start managing their careers (and their emotions) more responsibly if they want to enjoy the lifestyle they expect to have. It’s as simple as that.
Classes are still in session, we have the full support of the Gracie Barra organization, and we are actively in talks with some exciting alternatives to fill the head-instructor position.”
Professor Chris Pizzo
Gracie Barra Irvine
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