Kade Ruotolo of Atos Jiu-Jitsu has announced that he’s open to facing off against twin brother Tye Ruotolo in the finals of their division at the IBJJF Worlds 2021. In an interview with FloGrappling, posted to YouTube on December 1, 2021, Kade quickly rejects the notion of closing out with his twin: “We’re so against closing out, you know, we’re not down to close out.” Kade promises a “war” if he and Tye meet in the finals, explaining, “If you close out, there’s no winner, you know? I feel like the third place is the winner if there’s a closeout… so we’ll definitely make sure to scrap it out in the final if we make it there.” With a grin, he adds, “Or when we make it there.”
Although both brothers politely demurred when the Jiu-Jitsu Times approached them for further comment on the matter, it’s not hard to believe in the potential for a war there – just sneak a peek at FloGrappling’s footage of the twins’ playful yet highly aggressive garage grappling battles. These two are clearly no strangers to going up against each other, and going hard. As Grappling Insider’s Ben Coate observes, the twins favor an athletic and submission-oriented style that tends to be a crowd-pleaser – whether sparring with each other, or facing down opponents with a medal on the line – and have already showcased impressive performances in other major competitions this year, including WNO championship wins for both brothers.
For newcomers to sport jiu-jitsu, “closeouts” occur when members of the same team are matched up against one another in the finals of a tournament, and elect not to fight it out. Instead, one competitor – usually the more junior – forfeits, taking second place on the podium, and essentially allowing their teammate to win gold by default. Closeouts are a longstanding tradition on the competitive jiu-jitsu circuit, particularly in the more highly visible levels of the sport. This past year alone, another set of twin jiu-jitsu phenoms, Paulo and João Miyao, closed out the black belt light-feather division at IBJJF Masters Worlds, with Paulo taking gold and his brother silver. Similarly, the legendary Wellington “Megaton” Dias won gold in his division after Gracie Humaitá teammate Ricardo Guimarães conceded to a closeout.
The reasoning behind the closeout tradition is manifold: some proponents argue that closing out prevents bad blood and petty rivalries from erupting between teammates. Others worry that the prospect of competing against a teammate in the finals might damage valuable training partnerships, while some simply claim that closeouts are a symbolic display of unity and strength as a team. That said, closeouts have recently begun generating more controversy within the jiu-jitsu community. Some consider closeouts an act of cowardice that succeeds at nothing more than preserving fragile egos, while others complain that closeouts ruin the spectator experience of the sport. According to Attack the Back’s Richard Presley, five out of nine divisions at the 2014 Pan American Champions ended with a closeout, leading to disappointment from viewers who had been looking forward to real showdowns between seasoned grapplers at the tops of their divisions.
The Ruotolo twins, however, aren’t the only Atos teammates who have been willing to buck tradition. According to the BJJ Heroes stats, back in 2017, Keenan Cornelius, an Atos star at the time, and teammate Josh Hinger faced off against each other in competition not just once, but four times, with Cornelius taking three of those victories – once at the Seattle Open, and twice at American Nationals – while Hinger triumphed once in no-gi at American Nationals. Nor is Atos the only major jiu-jitsu team that has defied closeout tradition. In 2019, for example, Gordon Ryan famously tapped out fellow Danaher Death Squad member and mentor Garry Tonon at ADCC – though, as pointed out by Josh Hinger himself in a 2016 FloGrappling article, it should be noted that ADCC is among the non-IBJJF tournaments that do not officially allow closeouts. FloGrappling’s footage of the match between Ryan and Tonon has well over 500,000 views on YouTube – along with, of course, an ample comment section.
Whether you’re for closeouts or against them, one thing is a near certainty: if the Ruotolo twins match up in the finals of their division at Worlds this year – and given their respective track records in the sport, there’s a decent possibility that they will – spectators will be treated to a good old-fashioned war on the mats.