PGF Season 4: Female Bantamweights

Ever since Brandon Mccaghren started the Professional Grappling Federation, fans have been asking when ladies were going to get a chance at PGF glory. With season 4 of the PGF, Mccaghren (often referred to as the Commissioner) chose men’s 155lb and under as the main season, but he added a Female bantamweights (135lb and under) competition as well.

Some had concerns whether a full female league would be feasible, the Commissioner decided to have a paired down female league added to the regular PGF as a proof of concept. He decided a dozen bantam weight ladies would get the chance for history as the inaugural female PGF champion. But just like the men, the ladies would have to participate in a qualifier – the preseason tournaments of the PGF – to earn a spot in the league. With 10 qualifiers originally scheduled, it only left two at-large bids available. So, even more so for the ladies than the men, they had to win the qualifier or put on a truly great show of being an exciting grappler to receive a roster spot in the PGF regular season.

At the first qualifier in Decatur, AL on March 5th, a pioneer of women’s mixed martial arts answered the PGF’s call. Tara Larosa, recently mentioned as a pioneer in the sport by Joe Rogan (1:33), was eventually 22-5 in MMA, securing titles in four different promotions. But more importantly for PGF purposes, she’s a purple belt under Royce Gracie (and has been for a minute) and a black belt in judo. Larosa won silver in ADCC in 2005 and 2007 and won gold in Fila Grand World Champtionships in 2007 and in both her weight division and absolute division in 2009. Seriously, she won silver in ADCC two times! That’s like having Vagner Rocha, Craig Jones, or Nicky Rod competing in the PGF! In Decatur, Larosa faced competition in the form of Claire Mitchell out of 10th Planet Huntsville and Madison Masters out of One Nation Jiu Jitsu. Both of Larosa’s opponents came from camps who had produced high-performing PGF competitors. Unfazed as one would expect of a pioneer, Larosa secured head and arm triangle and rear naked choke submissions to earn the first roster spot for the season. Considering Larosa’s pedigree and skills, fans would have to place her as the odds on favorite to win this season. Seriously, I can’t do Larosa enough justice. Fans would be smart to Google her and YouTube search her. Larosa was inducted into the New Jersey Martial Arts Hall of Fame. She’s currently the Carolina Combat League combat jiu jitsu champion. It’s going to be awesome watching Larosa in the PGF!

Next, the PGF moved onto Qualifier #2 in Jacksonville, FL on April 16th. We had Brianna Merrill out of Smiley Academy/Team Combat Athletix (a Tom Deblass Association school) facing Brianna Parocha out of 10th Planet Jacksonville. They had a best of three situation because only two ladies signed up for the qualifier. In their first match, Parocha was constantly on the attack – she first pulled ashi for a leglock; then transitioned to a triangle when Merrill countered; finally, Parocha secured a belly-down arm bar to get the submission. In their second match, after a little standing wrestling, Parocha tried for a flying guillotine only to have to settle for full guard. Parocha immediately went for an armbar, but slid off to an attempt at a heelhook. Then she went for an armbar. With Merrill rebuffing the armbar, Parocha went to a double outside ashi (DOA), looking at a straight ankle lock. They scrambled some with Parocha going for a kneebar, but they ended up back on their feet. Parocha pulled ashi again and they started scrambling some more with Parocha constantly on the attack. The match very fun to watch. Parocha got super close on a triangle with Merrill going to lift her up but being unsuccessful. Merrill showed some real durability and defense here. Ultimately, Parocha made the same armbar transition to belly down and got the submission securing the second roster spot for the female bantamweight PGF season. Parocha seems a bit undersized for 135, but her energy and constant attacking nature will definitely make her entertaining to watch. Also of note, Parocha’s boyfriend Manning “Manaconda” Leverett also out of 10P JAX received an at-large bid after that qualifier making them the first PGF #powercouple. Parocha has had multiple matches in Submission Grappling Series and was a participant in the 10PQ or 10th Planet Qualifier at 10th Planet Headquarters in LA for the Medusa competition. Looking at her competitions, she likes to mix the knee bars with heel hooks and arm bars. She might run into a little trouble with her penchant for the DOA position as we’ve seen folks turn those into back takes a good bit in the PGF. Regardless, she should be a lot of fun to watch compete.

Unfortunately, no ladies registered for the Cincinnati Qualifier on May 7th. On the bright side, this lack of qualifier winner means another at-large spot could be open for another competitor from a different qualifier.

On May 28th, the PGF traveled to the Elijah “the Bad Guy” Carlton’s home in Agoge Combatives for the Chattanooga Qualifier. Once again, only two ladies registered for the qualifer, but both have great stories. Paola Gibbs is a blue belt under Nomad Jiu Jitsu in Lynchburg, VA and an instructor at Forge Jiu Jitsu in Chatham, VA. Fans of the PGF might recognize Paola from the comments section as she was a very vocal fan in seasons 2 and 3. Of course, she was supporting her husband Joshua “Full Time” Gibbs – veteran of seasons 2 and 3 and season 3 Such N Such Battlerama Champion! I don’t think Josh could get down to 155, but the idea of a second power couple was intriguing. If nothing, Paola’s prior interactions with the fans of the PGF had folks wishing her luck. But if Paola wanted a roster spot, she had to face Emily “Cyanide” Hauser.

Emily “Cyanide” Hauser is a blue belt under UFC Veteran Spencer Fisher and she trains out of Combat Performance in East Flat Rock, NC. Her nickname is Cyanide and she teaches a youth female-only jiu jitsu class called the little cyanides. I’m not 100% sure of the meaning, but one can surmise it’s because she kills quickly just like the poison.

As there were only two competitors in the ladies’ bracket, Paola and Cyanide would face off in a best two out of three series. Immediately as the ladies listened to the Commissioner explain the bet out of three scenario, Paola looked a little undersized (later on it was mentioned she may have weighed in at 119). Paola was all smiles, but Cyanide had a very determined look. Cyanide went for a bit of a bull rush and Paola sat looking to play some de la Riva or possibly open guard. Cyanide gave some great pressure and passed Paola’s guard. Paola kept hanging onto Cyanide’s neck, risking the Von Flue (or OSP) choke. Cyanide quickly moved to threaten with an arm triangle as she worked for mount, then executed a chair sit to take Paola’s back. Paola was able to relieve some pressure by stacking Cyanide a bit, but ultimately Cyanide rolled Paola to her side and secured the rear naked choke finish. So, Cyanide took the first round in 1:53 seconds – staying true to her nickname.

After only one match intermission, the ladies ran it back again. Paola quickly sat guard again, looking to hook a leg. Paola looking to elevate or imbalance Cyanide. Cyanide keeping solid pressure and looking for her spots. Paola inverts to take Cyanide’s leg using the DOA position (see above). Cyanide passes to top half guard and looks to setup a head and arm triangle. Cyanide uses serious pressure to switch Paola’s hips and knee slice (if you will) to full mount. Paola executes a big bridge and frees her elbow from the head and arm threat. Cyanide took Paola’s back and started cranking down on the RNC. Cyanide secured the RNC. After the two wins, Cyanide showed her emotion with plenty of smiles. I know you can’t access the qualifier any more unless you’re a member of Brandon Mccaghren’s channel (btw, seriously, it only costs $1 a month to be a bread eater and to be able to access all the behind the paywall stuff – you should do it), so I can point you to Cyanide’s YouTube channel where she does a quick recap of her qualifier experience.

On June 25th, the PGF traveled again to Fort Myers, FL and The Grounds MMA. Unfortunately, no ladies registered for the qualifier. Again, one can only hope the lost qualifier winning roster spot could go to an at large bid.

At this point, the PGF has four qualifiers left. The PGF will return to Decatur on July 16, then head to Nashville, TN on July 30th. Next will be Atlanta, August 20th and finally Asheville, NC on September 10th.

As of now, there are no ladies signed up for the second Decatur Qualifier. I have to imagine Kiaya Jackson out of 10th Planet Decatur will sign up even though she’s technically a lower weight class. Plus, as the home of the PGF, you would think it’s possible we might see more ladies familiar with the PGF which might lead them to sign up. Nashville has three incomplete ladies’ registrations which is a good sign this far out. Atlanta and Asheville are just too far out to get any idea of how many competitors will eventually sign up.

Now it’s time for my mea culpa. As I mentioned in my last post, I had to get something out to break the inertia of not having written anything since season 3. I even pushed off all the hyperlinking of that article until multiple days later. Between that rush to push out a post and the speculation of the female bantamweight season being modified if there remained a lack of participation in qualifiers, I left only essentially a footnote for the ladies in the last post. Walo tried to call me out on it during the PGF Insiders podcast, but I ignore most of what he says anyway (haha – much love brother). Cyanide hit me up and called me out which was fair. I was already planning on a post about the ladies season, but she gave me a much needed push to make it a priority.

To the ladies, my apologies and nothing but respect. I’ve appreciated every female training partner I’ve rolled with and enjoy watching fierce ladies fight. To everyone, please reach out to those great female training partners you have and encourage them to register for the four remaining PGF qualifiers. So many of us have said we want to see a female PGF season, but that only happens if we can convince our family and friends to go out there and compete. So many people have said they have never seen a more supportive, positive, passionate promotion than the PGF. If ever there was a great place to test themselves out, the PGF is the place to do it. I hope to see y’all in late October or early November during the PGF season or at least to interact with y’all in the chat. Let’s get as many folks plugged into the PGF as possible either as a competitor or fan – it’s the best jiu jitsu promotion around and everyone will have a blast being a part of it.

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