Where/when your love affair with bjj began;
I began my martial arts journey in 1993, in 1999 I was first exposed to jiu jitsu and trained off and on until 2011 at which point I decided to commit to training with the intent to compete. I really started to love the sport at around blue belt when I started to truly come into my own as a competitor and enjoy success up until that point it was a nice hobby, around that time it became more of a lifestyle.
Positive changes it has brought into your life;
Jiu-jitsu has become far more than a hobby for me. I am in much better shape because of it, I make major life choices as a result of it. My relationship with jiu-jitsu is as important as any other in my life. The major positive change it has brought about in me is another sense of purpose. Whereas in the past I may have focused on relationships, family, my job, now I have ANOTHER purpose in jiu-jitsu.
Most of my friendships are with people I met in the sport, many of my hobbies are offshoots of my experiences in the sport. It is a powerful entity within my life that lends me confidence and happiness.
Best/worst experiences within the industry;
I’ve been training off and on for over 20 years. In 2011 I moved back home to Cleveland Ohio and started training more seriously, during this time I discovered that many people in jiu-jitsu aren’t great people at all, and I found myself ostracized by the people I was supposed to be learning how to grapple from. There are various possible explanations, the excuse I was given was that I rolled too hard (though I didn’t bring any more intensity to my training than my training partners.) It was weird. Ultimately I landed at my current jiu-jitsu home, Strong Style MMA in 2014 and haven’t really looked back since but even during my time at Strong Style I’ve had odd interactions with many in the local grappling community. In one case I was banned from a gym because I submitted someone in competition and they didn’t like that I posted it online. On another occasion I was banned from a gym and when I pressed for why I was being banned was told that it was because I don’t take rolling “seriously enough”. The level of egos in the sport is bizarre.
The best experiences I’ve had come from some of the more intense friendships I’ve forged. My coaches Sean Daugherty and Pablo Castro have gone to great lengths to be good friends to me, both have traveled cross country to coach me. Another good friend is the last man to beat me in a pro match, Josh Leduc. Josh has become a real friend which is crazy because we first met each other and tried to tear each others legs off (each almost succeeding.)
Biggest influences (doesn't have to be within the industry or well-known);
My biggest influences are my coaches Sean Daugherty and Pablo Castro, both of whom have in their own way shaped my grappling game. I have many influences, but really anyone who has become a friend has in some way influenced me.
Interesting places you've been, interesting people you've met;
During a family vacation to Israel I was fortunate to be able to teach a seminar in Kfar Saba and that was a very interesting experience for me. I’ve gotten to meet and train with some of the best in the game including Marcelo Garcia, Garry Tonon, Joao Miyao and many many more. The list of elite competitors that I’ve gotten to train with is just about endless. I train at an MMA gym that is home to the current UFC heavyweight champion. It’s been a crazy ride.
A super interesting experience has been my podcast which is started to deal with the Covid19 blues, the BCTL Podcast which has featured a wide variety of individuals ranging from people from the movie industry to elite grapplers to musicians. Selecting these people and curating my guest list has been a trip.
Your thoughts on the future of bjj;
The sport will continue the way it always has with its various metas and ebbs and flows. The future is bright.
I think that the model of Fight2Win and other similar organizations will hopefully continue to flourish ultimately raising the pay ceiling and helping all of the pro athletes. We will see what happens though.
Is it a male dominated sport? Is there equality in bjj?
BJJ is a male dominated sport because the majority of the people who do it are male. I hope that changes but until it does there will always be a struggle for equality.
I think that people need to call each other out on their BS more often and that we need to set higher standards for the people that we look up to.