Titans Talk Tournaments

I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for about 4 years now and I’m only beginning to prepare for my first tournament, or I was until I injured my wrist.  My ambition is to compete in MMA but since I’ve never competed in anything before, I think it’s probably a good idea to start from the ground up.  

In the past I wasn’t interested in BJJ tournaments because to me, there was no point; I’d have to drive for an hour or more, waste a whole day sitting around waiting for my turn and then compete against girls who outweighed me by at least 50lbs. And I would have to pay someone to do this. What would I get out of it if I won? A medal that I would probably throw in the garbage when I got home or a large tshirt that I just give to one of the guys on my team. What a complete waste of time.

Not only would I not gain anything of material value, what did I care if I could beat any of those girls? I didn’t start BJJ so I could protect myself from women; I wanted to be able to protect myself from men. I was robbed at gunpoint twice while working at a video store here in Halifax, NS. The first time I was robbed, the guy took the money and ran. The second time, he wasn’t satisfied with the money and took me out back to look for more.

I remember standing there, knowing I could dead lift 185 lbs but if he wanted to rape me, I was totally unprepared to defend myself. I was strong but I was useless for anything other than picking up a big bag of potatoes at the grocery store. To me, that was the purpose of learning BJJ: knowing that if someone tried to attack me, he would be more likely to end up in the hospital than I would (hopefully). When a woman is attacked, most likely she will be taken to the ground. BJJ is ideal for self-defense, in my opinion, because there’s no way I’m going to win a punching match with a man.

Over time, watching the people at Titans prepare for competition both in BJJ and MMA made the idea of competing grow on me. My thinking has evolved past the point where I only see BJJ as a way to protect myself. Competing isn’t about the medal or the extra large tshirt; it’s about proving that all of the time you’ve spent on the mats has paid off, or learning what areas need improvement. It’s about being a part of a team, even though you’re on the mat by yourself. I’m really looking forward to testing myself in competition and I’m lucky to be part of a team that is successful, competitively. Of course, I have a million questions and fortunately Josh has agreed to answer some of them for me today.

Taylor Gang 2012
Josh Presley trains BJJ with me at Titans MMA under Renzo Gracie Black Belt, Kevin Taylor.  He has travelled in Canada and the US with members of the “Taylor Gang” to train with and compete against some of the best in the world with impressive results:  

2011 Silver Medal IBJJF World Championships (lightweight division)
2010 Bronze Medalist IBJJF World Championships (featherweight division)
2010 New York International Open Featherweight Champion and Bronze Medallist in the Open Weight Division
2010 North Eastern Canadian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Advanced Lightweight Champion
2010/2011 Abu Dhabi Pro Canadian Trials Featherweight Champion x2
2010/2011 Abu Dhabi Pro Canadian Trials Open Weight Silver Medalist x2
2011 US Grappling Sub Only Champion (Purple Belt, lightweight)
2009 Miami International Open Featherweight Champion
2009 Lutador No Gi Grappling Challenge Champion (Intermediate Lightweight)
2009 Eastern Canada Grappling Championships, Advanced lightweight winner
2009/10/11 Atlantic Grappling Championship Lightweight Champion, Open Weight Champion
2009 Abu Dhabi Pro Canadian Trials Lightweight Bronze Medallist
2009 Pan American Champion (White belt, featherweight)

Sally:  Thank you for taking the time to discuss tournaments with me today, Josh,  To begin, please tell me why you began training BJJ and did you start at Titans?
Josh:  I always played hockey but wasn’t super good at it, and kinda got to a point where there were not many leagues to play in, so I wanted to find another sport that was a little more individual . Also by the time I was done playing hockey I was also super overweight, like over 200 pounds. So I kind of just decided to try and get in shape and then join a cool martial art. I was already a pretty big fan of the UFC and originally I wanted to do Judo, I just couldn’t find any clubs to go to within a few hours driving distance.

I knew there were a couple jiu-jitsu clubs in Halifax and I researched BJJ a bit and decided to try out a class. It took probably a month or so until I really started to enjoy it but I’ve never done anything else that’s even close to being as fun as jiu-jitsu.

Jon Gale, Josh Presley, Josh Wincey
Sally:  Was it your intention to compete when you began training? How long were you training before your first tournament?
Josh:  No, as far as I knew they didn’t have very many tournaments for jiu-jitsu, so I can’t say I intended to compete when I started. After a month or two I heard a few blue belts from the gym (Josh Wincey and Jon Gale) had gone to California recently to compete at the Pan American Championships, and had won a few matches. They had a bunch of videos on youtube winning matches at tournaments and doing flying armbars, so I thought that was cool. It kinda got me interested in the idea of competing more, and I started trying to find a tournament to get ready for. Those guys had won all the tournaments around locally as far as I knew and kinda set the bar as far as ‘being good’ was, so I didn’t wanna rush and compete right away and lose.

Josh Wincey Blue Belt Match

Jon Gale Blue Belt Match

I started training in August 2007 and competed at my first tournament in May 2008. My first ever tournament match I got stuck in a full rear-naked choke, but I somehow got out and ended up winning by rear-naked choke myself. I ended up getting 2nd, getting submitted in the final.

Josh Presley First BJJ Match

Generally speaking, I think you should wait at least a few months before you compete.

Sally: Whoa, nice recovery! How do you train differently when preparing for a tournament? Do you change your diet also?

Josh: If it’s a really big tournament usually 4-5 weeks out I really try and clean up my diet and do some extra training on top of rolling/drilling. Extra cardio and weight sessions, a lot of drilling and a lot of rolling. If you aren’t putting enough time into drilling and rolling than any other extra cardio/weight training is kinda useless, good enough technique will overcome strength the majority of the time.

I honestly don’t really ever have a step-by-step gameplan in my head when I compete. I learned a long time ago a match can end up anywhere, in a lot of different positions, so you really need to be good from everywhere. I just try and work a lot of different positions and go into competitions with a lot of confidence.

Sally: I’ve never competed in anything in my life. What do people mean when they say they get a “rush” from competition?

Josh: I think what people mean they get the ‘rush’ from competition refers to an adrenaline rush. Whether you want it to happen or not, you can’t really stop it. To me, it’s a result of the atmosphere. In training you’re a lot more laid back, you don’t assume everyone is watching you, and if you win or lose in a roll it doesn’t really matter.

When you compete you kinda feel like you’re under a microscope, everybody not competing themselves is either watching you or another match, your teammates are right beside you to try and coach/support you…it’s just a lot different than rolling in the gym, so that’s where the ‘rush’ comes from.

For some people it takes some getting used to, they might get really uncomfortable or nervous…sometimes it takes a few tournaments to find your own zone so you perform at your best. Competing always came kind of naturally to me, I feel like I do better under pressure. I’m usually fairly laid back, so that’s probably worked to my benefit as well.

I’ve only really ever felt nervous before my first competitive match. After that I learned to use that energy ‘rush’ to get ready rather than nervous. If you can channel that energy into something positive rather than worrying about the outcome of the match you will probably have better results.

Sally: I’ve heard that in MMA fights or tournaments, people have cardio issues due to nervous tension. The general rule of thumb is to increase your cardio capacity to twice as much as you need because it gets cut in half in competition. Do you find that to be true? Also, is there an adrenaline dump after the rush and does that affect subsequent matches?

Josh: No, I’ve never really had that problem. The only way I could see that becoming a major issue is if you let yourself get out of control. If in your first match you feel this big rush and you go totally crazy, chances are you’re going burn A LOT of energy win or lose, and probably be significantly drained for your next match.

Jiu-Jitsu is supposed to be about control: controlling your opponent, and controlling your emotions. Use the adrenaline rush for a boost, to get focused, but don’t overdo it. You should try and keep a clear head/mind during your match. Like I said, the atmosphere is different, but it’s all in how you handle it that will make the difference. Don’t let it get the better of you. Try to stay controlled and relaxed. 

Sally: What do people eat all day sitting around at tournaments? I find that I can’t eat before rolling because it makes me nauseous. I wouldn’t be able to go and have a big lunch and then come back and roll right away. I’d have to stick to meal replacements and bananas or something.

Josh: Fruit, bars, trail mix…anything like that is fine if you’re going to be there a while.

Sally: MMA weigh ins are the day before the fight so the fighter has time to recover from a weight cut and perform at a higher level. At BJJ tournaments the weigh ins are the day of the tournament; if a person cuts weight for the tournament is it more difficult to recover for the matches in such a short time period or do competitors mostly just eat cleaner in order to make weight rather than using the extreme methods MMA fighters do?

I know there was some confusion about this issue in the BJJ super fight that was scheduled between BraulioEstima vs Nick Diaz. Do you think the fact that Nick had made weight the day before would have been to his advantage since Braulio would have cut 9 pounds on the day of the fight in order to compete?

Josh:  Jiu-Jitsu tournaments have it down so you basically can’t cut weight. If you want to cut 10-15 pounds in a sauna or whatever, weigh in, and then compete immediately, you go right ahead; that’s a pretty good way to seriously injure yourself. Guys do it though; people will do anything to gain even a small advantage. All you can really do is diet and eat clean. You can undereat for a while to get lighter, but again, be smart. If you expect to have a lot of matches just go with whatever weight you feel comfortable and let the weight cutters kill themselves. If they spend most of their time cutting weight for the tournament, chances are they aren’t focusing enough on technique and will lose anyway.  

I don’t know that much about the Nick/Estima super fight, I don’t even really know why they had weigh ins. Technique that is good enough should overcome size, but maybe they did it to make it more professional. I would never ask for a weigh in before a super fight, but I also don’t make any money from this so maybe it’s relative. 

Sally: Do you think BJJ competitors will ever make the kind of money MMA fighters make? Are there sponsor opportunities for high level competitors or would they make a living training others based on their success at tournaments?
Josh: No, BJJ will never be as big as MMA. It’s a nice thought, but it’s way too boring. Think about your average UFC fan: they love tattoos of flaming skulls, monster energy drinks, and fights with CONSTANT action. Rock ‘em sock ‘em robot style. People still boo when fights go to the ground; I don’t think people could stand to watch a 10 minute black belt watch where the winner wins 0-0 with 1 advantage point. 
I love Jiu-Jitsu more than any other sport in the world, but I still get bored watching matches sometimes. I can’t imagine what it must be like for your average fan that’s into combat sports. Hopefully it eventually gets put in the Olympics, but even that is much harder than you would think.

It could definitely be bigger than it currently is, though. The only way to make it bigger is to give the top guys more of a chance to advertise, let them get patches on their gi’s, different graphics on live broadcasts or DVDs maybe to get them paid, but it will never be as big, or have a pay scale similar to MMA.

Sally:  Ciao Terra recently posted a statement on Facebook about some of the organizers of the international tournaments:

“They try making it a show. The clown is us, fighters. They don’t care that we sacrifice our lives training for some tournament that doesn’t pay us. I live for and from BJJ and my titles are my resume, what gives me credibility with my “clients”.

I don’t want to just speak for myself, but for everyone who got cheated because the refs are neither capable nor prepared. Put the refs in suits? They have money for that but don’t have money to do drug tests on the black belt competitors? They have money for posters, but not for the refs. Neither to train them better.

These suits were a mask of what this events are. It’s the best event not because of the organization or how pretty it is, but because it has the best competitors. I wish there was another event in that level of competition because the money they make and not invest is a shame.

Like i said I’m not the only one. The blue belts are constantly cheated because sometimes they don’t hire real refs, saving money – but they made $300.000,00 just on registrations and so much more on entrance, parking, sponsors, stands and specially streaming us, clowns of this MAFIA organization!” 

Would you say the same thing based on your experiences competing in large tournaments?

Josh:  I agree with Caio Terra, even though honestly he comes off as a whiner, and I hate whiners. If he’s concerned about making money he should really alter his focus to a sport or a job that actually pays its competitors or employees. You can’t enter an amateur event and complain about not getting paid. That’s absurd. 

But bad officiating is a part of sports in general, not just BJJ. You’d have a hard time finding any sport where there hasn’t been a number of refereeing controversies. Not to mention that BJJ is still a fairly new sport, even though it’s been around a while, it’s still only just not really starting to grow and become more popular in the USA/Canada. So Caio is right 100%, there needs to be training for referees, but they’re still going to mess up, with training or not.

Sally:  I watched your matches at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in Montreal, Josh, from home and I thought you won the match that would have sent you to Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, I can’t find a video but if I do, I’ll add it.

Josh:  Yeah my Mom thought I won too, but it doesn’t matter. It’s my fault for not submitting him; you have to try to never leave it to the judges. There was a match I watched recently with DJ Jackson from Team Lloyd Irvin against a competitor from Brazil who was a favorite in the division. There was like 30 seconds left in the match and a break in the action when the score was tied on advantages and you can hear Lloyd Irvin say ‘They’re gonna try and take it from you.’ In an effort to motivate DJ to score the deciding points. 

That’s the attitude you should have when it comes to referees and decisions. If you don’t win by submission you have no one to blame but yourself. It’s not good to dwell on your losses anyway, you can’t get it back. Move on to the next tournament/goal.

Sally:  Are you comparing my opinion to your Mom’s because we’re the same age?
Josh:  No, she’s not 40 yet so you still got a few years on her
Sally:  I’m 36 jerkface!
Josh:  Whoops! 
Sally:  Locally, we probably don’t have issues with performance enhancement drugs or faulty reffing but when you travel for competition, do you think it is an issue?

Josh:  It’s always an issue, people who think that nobody is abusing PED’s in a sport where there’s absolutely no formal testing is a total idiot. I think that there’s a lot of abuse of steroids and other PED’s in both MMA and BJJ.
Sally:  You said to never leave it to the judges; a lot of people play the points game but I know your intention is to always submit. A lot of wrestlers have begun training BJJ and winning the points game. How do you feel this has affected how people train for tournaments?

Josh:  I don’t think it changes training for tournaments, whether you’re training to win by submission, points, or advantages, you should still be training hard. 

Sally: I find watching BJJ matches boring also and that’s one of the reasons I’ve hesitated to compete at tournaments. I don’t want to sit around all day watching matches while waiting to roll once or twice myself. Obviously, that’s a selfish way to look at it.

Do you feel that participating in tournaments as a team is important? I know we talked the other day about how I’m behind in the tournament game because I haven’t competed yet but that I’m fortunate because I get to train with a team with a strong competition history. Do you think the success of others benefits the whole team from a training perspective?

Josh: Participating in a tournament as a team is cool. You get to watch everyone, and get to have people in your corner. Lots of times at tournaments I’ve only had maybe one team mate in my corner, but I’ve made lots of friends all around the States too so somebody is usually willing to help me out.

The success of others definitely benefits the team. If somebody else goes away and wins a tournament or a big match/fight I would definitely be motivated to train a little bit harder, and I think most people would feel the same way. Plus, any time your team mates are winning it usually makes for a pretty good, positive training atmosphere.

Sally: How important is it to have good cornering?

Josh: I think having a good corner man is very important. It depends on what kind of person you are when it comes to how much coaching you really need. But for me it’s just comforting to have somebody in your corner that you can rely on to give you a little bit of encouragement, make sure you stay relaxed, keep you updated on the time/score; stuff like that. Keep the distractions to a minimum for you. I don’t need somebody screaming at me the entire time, I don’t find that helpful. Kevin Taylor, Josh Wincey, Jon Thomas, Jon Gale have all done awesome for me when I’ve competed.

Ladies always love the champ
Sally:  Well, thanks again for taking the time to discuss tournaments with me today, Josh!  I only meant to ask about training and diet but I guess I really did have a million questions.  Your next tournament is at FitPlus in Dartmouth, NS on July 7 & 8, 2012;  I’m looking forward to going to watch the Taylor Gang compete even if I can’t participate.  Best of luck, Josh!  Everyone at Titans is really proud of you.

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