Since my last competition I’ve only been able to fit in 5 training sessions. I was in need of points to compete at Worlds next year so I signed up for the Long Beach Open. My division had only one competitor, Carlos Farias. Although older than me, he is a very seasoned and tough competitor with matches and wins over many big names in the sport. My biggest fear was running out of gas. In addition to the tournament recap, I’ll share a breakdown of the mental prep I did since my physical preparation was sub-optimal.
Signing up for a tournament usually results in a consistent cycle of emotions:
1) Excitement upon seeing the tournament. 2) Fired up to fight and sign up. 3) Immediate concern about whether or not you are actually ready to fight. 4) Trying to train as much as possible to prep.(This can sometimes be counterproductive if you’re underprepared and over compensate. And finally, 5) Nerves on the day, or sometimes leading up to, the competition.
No matter how many times I compete I get nervous. I rested as much as I could leading up to the event. And played out the fight in my head over and over. During my few training sessions I started in the positions I thought I might find myself in and worked my way through them. The goal was to get points for Worlds and the best chance I had to do it was to win my division so that was where all of my mental focus was. I know, it’s not as sexy as saying “I’m going to win weight and open by submission and be on the cover of GracieMag!” But it’s the truth. I set a realistic micro-goal.
On my cross country road trip, I met Carlos while passing through Arizona. We rolled 3 or 4 times at Megaton’s gym and had a decent sense of each of our games. He was very strong with incredible pressure and heart. From our training, I thought we were fairly well matched on the feet but that I might be able to get a takedown and I thought my guard passing would outmatch his guard. My guard might be able to hold him off, but he had a good chance to win if I was on bottom. Although boring for spectators, I planned on spending as long as it took on the feet to get to the top position. I mean seriously… look at this picture by Dale Shirley. You really want to be playing bottom game with this guy?!!
At weight my fight with Carlos played out as expected. There was a ton of grip fighting on the feet. He went for some wrist locks which I appreciated. I hit two inside foot sweeps that took Carlos to his knees but he was able to scramble up before I secured the position. I got myself into some trouble when I shot a double and he sprawled on me. I knew we were close to going out of bounds so I kept driving until the ref stopped us knowing we would be reset back on the feet. Sometimes you gotta play smart so you don’t have a 300lb beast on crushing you. Since I was up by 2 advantages, I thought he might pull guard to try to make something happen but he stayed on his feet. With only 30 seconds left I was confident that I could stop his guard passing so I pulled straight to an armbar. He was so strong that even with his arm fully extended he pushed me onto my neck, which is a bit sore today. I held onto the arm and was able to secure the submission. Afterwards, he was all class. I have a ton of respect for Carlos. Although almost 10 years my senior, he fearlessly fights anyone. I hope I perform as well as he does 10 years from now.
The open weight was much less exciting. I drew Nick Shultz as my first fight. At 27, Nick is a recent Ribeiro black belt who I think will have a lot of big wins in his future. He recently narrowly lost a match with Tarsis at the Long Beach Pro. He’s a name to watch. I felt confident that I could control the tempo of the match, and my wind, if I insisted on stand up. I underestimated Nick’s drop Seoi Nage and was taken down. I jumped on the armbar but he defended. My guard work was sluggish and he actively passed my guard.
For all the spectators, I’m sorry. I’m sure it’s not fun to watch someone calmly defend bad positions. I also know that in sport jiu jitsu, I should really work to get out of the bad positions. But for some reason, I can’t shake the desire to not get tapped in competition. So I kept myself safe and fended off his attacks for the better part of 8 minutes. I was able to regard a couple times only to have him pass again. Nick was very classy in victory and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. It was simultaneously nice to know that I had good defense and also disappointing to be dominated on points.
This was my last competition for the year and lead to some reflection. Over 10 years of BJJ I have gotten about 5-6 tournaments in a year and have racked up 140 matches. I keep track of my wins and losses in a spreadsheet, which I’ve kept since white belt. I highly recommend this, and maybe in another article I’ll write about a few things to log as you start and continue your BJJ journey. Fabio Gurgel once said that if you train here and there, don’t watch your diet much, and don’t have a dialed in game plan but are talented, you’ll win some and lose some. I’m living that description. My stats for this year are a straight 50/50. Flip a coin and I might win or I might lose. It’s better than Vegas, but it’s an empirical representation of what I already knew. I’m proud to be performing as well as I am in some of these tournaments but to do better I need to be more focused and dedicated. And that will be the goal for 2017. A more regular schedule and more disciplined preparation. But no matter what situation I’m in, I will always try to fight.
My wife Mikialamode was once again there to film and coach. Thanks my love! Big shout out to my cousin Jared who surprised me by attending and supported me throughout my matches. Dalton’s CrossFit is my saving grace right now. The paladin and hoodie from VVVFightco are tournament musts! Pete and Sylvester once again were my only training partners outside of a couple open mats and I appreciate the support. Pete even went out of his way to watch the event and can be heard calling out my favorite takedown before I went for it on the video.