Jackson Sousa Suspended By Checkmat & Dropped By Sponsor Shoyoroll After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Former IBJJF world champion Jackson Sousa has been suspended by Checkmat after a number of women — including decorated UK black belt Samantha Cook — came forward with accusations of sexual harassment against him.

Last week, Cook shared her allegations on social media, writing on her Instagram stories:

“I know I’m not alone when I say I was sexually harassed by Jackson Sousa. When I did not concede to what he wanted he became aggressive and tried to ostracise me from the gym, saying I wasn’t welcome and I should leave London. I felt powerless and couldn’t tell anyone what I had experienced…

I moved gyms and some months later Jackson also moved to the same gym where he continued to make subtle acts to make me feel isolated like not shaking my hand and ignoring me. I confided in a mutual friend who had a ‘chat’ with Jackson about his behaviour towards me, I then learned he had told people I had slept with him and I was probably just bitter…

It wasn’t until I shared my experience with others that it came to light he had behaved this way and much worse towards so many other women. Friends and women I had never met who also felt powerless…

I acknowledge that my experience is not comparable to the recent events of FS, however the fact that his behaviour affected so many women and made them feel unsafe and powerless is not acceptable…

Jackson is a sexual predator who has harassed multiple women all over the world.

Enough is enough.”

After Cook shared her story, multiple other women sent her their own stories of their alleged experiences with Sousa; Cook shared their messages on Instagram while protecting their anonymity.

The Jiu-Jitsu Times reached out to Sousa for comment and did not receive a reply. However, he shared a statement on his own Instagram story regarding the allegations:

“Dear BJJ Community

An independent safeguarding investigation has been initiated to examine the allegations against me. I welcome this and look forward to fully cooperating with the investigators. While the investigation is ongoing, I will be suspended from Checkmat Hammersmith and will also withdraw from all other BJJ fights, seminars and activities. I will use this time to reflect on my past behavior and focus on my family.

Jackson Sousa”

Shoyoroll has since issued a statement declaring that they would no longer be sponsoring Sousa, and The Grapple Club shared a statement that they had removed Sousa’s courses from their website.


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A post shared by SHOYOROLL (@shoyoroll)

“In light of the recent outpouring from the female BJJ community entailing sexually predatory and abusive behavior from prominent male athletes, Shoyoroll has made the decision to formally end all sponsorship and affiliation with Jackson Sousa.

This is a challenging time for us as we reflect upon what values we uphold as a brand, and more broadly as a culture. The seriousness of the allegations cannot be ignored and this sort of behavior should no longer be tolerated or normalized. Our sport has evolved over many decades and with that growth has come the participation and inclusion of more and more women.

They are our friends, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers and grandmothers. As a culture, we’ve often neglected to give them the space to be heard and provided them with opportunities to thrive. We sponsor female athletes and we stand in solidarity with their stories and voices during this incredibly shameful time.

We are dedicated to seeing more and doing better, not because we can, but because we should. The women who share the mats with us every day deserve better, and we are dedicated to elevating the level of our culture.”

In a post on their Instagram account, Checkmat HQ/Leo Vieira also shared a statement confirming that Sousa had been suspended:

“First and foremost, we want to acknowledge Samantha Cook for her bravery in bringing light to a dark issue by sharing her story. Given that BJJ has traditionally been such a male dominated industry, you’ve given many women, not just in the Jiu Jitsu community, but around the world, the strength and confidence to speak and be heard.

The allegations against Jackson Sousa show a pervasive pattern of abuse and manipulation, and Checkmat is saddened and appalled by his reported behavior. He has been suspended from Checkmat, and a thorough review is ongoing.

Checkmat has a zero tolerance policy for any forms of harassment, discrimination, bullying, violence, sexual abuse or sexual misconduct at any of our affiliate locations.

We understand that we must empower individuals to speak with the confidence of knowing that what they say will be heard. Communication is vital for meaningful change, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that individuals will have a safe way to communicate any incidents of abuse to Checkmat.

Checkmat is currently reviewing our existing protocols with professionals to ensure that the best process and safeguards are in place for individuals to feel safe reporting incidents of any kind of abuse or harassment and also ensure a fair process for all parties involved.

Checkmat is committed to a long-term comprehensive effort to equip every affiliate within the team with the tools that they need to combat this behavior and quickly and effectively investigate and take appropriate action.

Checkmat HQ will advise affiliates of the protocol in place at HQ for safe reporting and investigation of any claims of abuse or harassment.

Affiliates will then need to consult with legal professionals in their home states and countries as to best practices, taking into consideration local laws and regulations.

Finally, Affiliates will be required to report their agreed upon protocol to Checkmat HQ for approval.

At Checkmat, we pride ourselves on having many of the world’s greatest men and women Jiu Jitsu competitors, and we know that without a safe environment, students and athletes will not succeed and achieve their goals.

Since its inception, Checkmat has been a Jiu Jitsu team rooted in my strong values of inclusion, support, and respect for all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation. Checkmat will move forward to advance these principles with pride and passion.

This is not the first time Sousa has been accused of sexual harassment; in 2018, Verena Rücker came forward with sexual harassment allegations against a BJJ black belt in an article that was published through German news outlet NWZ. Though Sousa wasn’t specifically named in the article or Rücker’s social media posts at the time, Rücker confirmed with the Jiu-Jitsu Times that she was indeed referring to him in her interview and Facebook posts.

The Jiu-Jitsu Times will continue to provide updates on this story as they become available.


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