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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane grappler Gillian Noll takes advantage of good fortune to win bantamweight championship at Jiu Jitsu tournament

By Charlotte McKinley The Spokesman-Review

From sleeping in the gym to skipping out on holiday indulgences, professional grappler and MMA fighter Gillian Noll knows what sacrificing for her dreams means.

In late December, Noll – who splits time living in Spokane and Walla Walla – came back from losing her first match in Eddie Bravo’s female-only combat jiu jitsu promotion to take home the Medusa bantamweight belt.

A combat jiu jitsu match in Hollywood was not what Noll was expecting to compete in at the end of the year, as she was scheduled for a December fight with Combate Global. However, the match was canceled due to organizational issues beyond her control.

Noll told her head coach and manager Pablo Alfonso and his wife, Rose, to book her for a fight whenever they wanted – just not during Christmas.

“We (were) scrambling, looking for (something) to keep her active and then the Medusa show (on Dec. 28) popped up,” Pablo said.

Medusa is a female-only bracketed jiu jitsu promotion. The events oscillate between Eddie Bravo Invitational rules and combat jiu jitsu rules. During this event, all submissions were legal, open-palmed strikes were allowed and if the match was not won in the 10-minute round, it went to overtime.

Sacrificing holiday indulgences to make weight, Noll accepted the match.

Her first opponent? The Medusa flyweight champion Alexandria Enriquez.

“You know for a fact if you beat the champion, you beat the champion,” Noll said of her mindset. “I’m ready for Alex.”

Leading up to the event, Noll overcame a series of obstacles.

First, Noll’s MMA license was suspended due to a commission mix-up; the doctor who did her medical was a nurse practitioner instead of a physician.; and the night before she left, her flight was canceled and rebooked (which would have forced her to miss weigh-ins.) Noll was eventually booked on a flight out of an airport three hours away.

Finally, Noll and Pablo found themselves walking into the Academy LA venue.

Though Enriquez dominated the first half of the match, Noll reversed position and did some damage with her strikes. At the end of 10 minutes, the women went into overtime with Enriquez coming out victorious.

After her defeat, Noll and Pablo headed to In-N-Out for her first burger since July.

On the way, Noll received a call asking if she was still in the Academy LA facility, and if she could replace Enriquez in the next tournament later that day. Enriquez suffered a concussion in her match against Noll and pulled out.

“Had (Noll’s) first match not gone so well, maybe they would have figured something else out,” Rose Alfonso said. “They always pull from the special match, but (Noll) proved herself a lot to be a contender in the first match.”

Burger forgotten, Noll and Pablo rushed back to the venue and, with no time to warm up, Noll was redressed in her uniform and stepping onto the mats.

“After waking up from a nap at the gym when I live there, I literally roll onto the mats,” Noll said. “This is a typical Thursday.”

After easily finishing her second opponent with a head and arm choke from bottom guard, she moved on to the semifinals, where she defeated her third opponent in overtime.

Noll noticed her opponents had a different game plan than in other tournaments: wait out the match to get to overtime and win on escape time or submission.

“It was very smart on their part and I loved it,” Noll said.

Despite the differences in strategy, Noll grappled well and defeated Jennifer Rivera in the finals to claim the Medusa bantamweight belt.

“I’m still a brown belt,” Noll said. “I’m a brown belt that won against black belts.”

For Noll, getting the belt for Pablo “really sealed the deal” for her.

“To do my dream is all because of him,” Noll said.

Warrior Camp has been chasing a combat jiu jitsu belt for years, according to Rose. First with Pablo in 2019 and 2020, and then with Freeman Elementary School health and physical education teacher Zack Schneider in 2021, ’22 and ’23.

“We have all these amazing grapplers and then (Noll) ends up getting (the belt), which is the most amazing thing ever because she lost the first match,” Rose said.

As Noll waits for her next MMA fight and defense of her new title, she has her sights set on the ADCC East Coast Trials in March – a no-gi jiu jitsu qualifying tournament for the ADCC World Championship.

“Now it’s really about growing my mind and playing (those) chess moves because I know I’m a winner. I know I can do anything,” Noll said. “I just have to be strategic about it to truly win.”