Anyone who has ever grappled will tell you how rewarding it is. What they often neglect to mention is -how all- consuming it is. These athletes compete in some of the most challenging disciplines known to man, but a number of them still found the time for academic pursuits. Read on to find out which accomplished grapplers also have pristine education:
The so-called “Killary” left the world of competition bjj behind to focus on pursuing a medical degree. In a 2010 interview with Gracie Mag she confirmed completely falling in love with medicine. The good doctor was training when she attended med school and she still trains. Williams, 27 specializes in neurology in her home town in the state of Arkansas, confirming what we’ve always known – she’s one very smart tough cookie.
Europe’s very own Janni Larsson reigned at Worlds from 2012 to 2014. This highly successful female competitor was also drawn to charms of medical profession. A decorated athlete sadly announced that after Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship she was retiring from the sport. Apparently since she was working a full time job, the results were harder and harder to accomplish so her desire to compete had gone away. She remains a dedicated student of the game.
Carlos Newton is a retired MMA fighter. The former UFC Welterweight champion has a 3rd degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt but his accomplishments don’t stop there. Newton attended Toronto’s York University with a focus on geriatric medicine. Newton was brought up by a single mother who was insistent on improving the quality of his education. Carlos Newton doesn’t work in his field of education but that does not diminish his accomplishments in fact he often stresses:
Education was always something important to me. I was very inquisitive and wanted to know things about the world, and how things functioned. I knew I couldn’t fight forever, so I definitely wanted to be prepared for after the fight career was finished.
My ego doesn’t thrive on my past accomplishments, although I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. I enjoy pursuing the next chapters in my life, and having an education is a vital part
Author of “Jiu Jitsu University” also attended a university himself. Saulo is a judge and a lawyer who considers education an important factor for everyone. He’s quoted saying that his academic background helps him explain himself and the art. 6x World Champion has always been focused on bjj and submission wrestling. Nowadays he competes and conquers in the masters division.
Rorion Gracie is one of the most educated and best spoken members of the Gracie family. Much like Saulo Ribeiro he also attended Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and graduated with a BA in Law. He would move to the US right after. Familiarity with law came in handy when it came to registering the Gracie name as a federal trademark and demanding other family members stop using their surname in connection with jiu-jitsu back in 1994. Luckily, he lost this particular fight so bjj kept expanding and growing around the globe.
Tyrone Glover used to be a professional MMA fighter. His life experience growing up in an intense wrestling oriented environment only intensified when he started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Yet in 2005, after winining against Din Thomas – he abruptly left the sport behind and entered law school. After graduating law school he returned to some smaller promotions. After scoring several new victories he announced his retirement from MMA but he also quit his corporate law job for a miniscule pay of a public defender. There’s a saying that fighters aren’t made they are born – but Tyrone Glover doesn’t feel this is true. He attributes his victories to a certain mentality, constant fight and struggle are a theme in his life and it was only natural he continue fighting the good fight on behalf of those in need.
Jared Dopp is an American born Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Rafael Lovato Junior, who has been regarded as one of the top athletes in the sport since the 2013 edition of the ADCC, where he beat the former champion Vinny Magalhaes and other seasoned competitors while being “just” a purple belt, (placing 4th overall) in the world’s most prestigious submission grappling tournament. As a brown belt Dopp improved on his previous ADCC mark, reaching a silver medal (2015) while also winning the World No-Gi and Pan American Championship. Dopp’s achievements are even more remarkable considering he reached all of these training 2-3x per week while maintaining a position as a chemical engineer. Read full bio on BJJ Heroes.
Augusto Frota is one of the most interesting and influential personalities in BJJ today. Academic commitments made him leave Fortaleza, Brasil and replace it with Fort Lauderdale where he completed his BA in international business. Later on he moved to Switzerland and started working for the Union of the Swiss Banks. Nowadays he runs Frota Academy, home base for many exciting seminars and camps. He founded Sports Network AG, which does sports, music, media, MMA, BJJ and camps.
Bruno Fernandes has a Wikipedia page. It refers to him as “a Brazilian ophthalmologists and martial arts teacher”. You’re more likely to know him as the man who stood behind a legend: Georges St. Pierre. Bruno was a competitor himself and he won many prestigious competitions including World Championship, Pan Ams as well as Nogi Pan ams. For a while in his youth he spent his time between swimming and bjj but he quickly left swimming behind. As he enrolled at the University the fact that Gracie Barra was a 5 minute walk from his dorm played a major role in keeping up with bjj during the busy student life. His accomplishments are a testament that you could do it all. Later on he went on to specialize in ophthalmology and started coaching BJJ part time. The plan was to stay in Canada for 2 years and then go back but he was offered a permanent position, and as we say the rest is history. He is now a valuable part of the Tristar MMA team.
AnnMaria De Mars
AnnMaria or as we know her: Ronda Rousey’s mom. But there was a time where she was simply the first American to take home gold at the World Judo Championships. Initially AnnMaria De Mars studied for an MBA at the University of Minnesota. In fact, DeMars was so committed to studying she ended up missing the first women’s world championships while in grad school. Later on she got a masters degree and phd in educational psychology from the University of California. Her philosophy in Judo favors offense centered attacks. She has also claimed we fight against people not principles. It’s hardly reaching to conclude psychology was always one of her interests.
Jan Gosiewski is a UK born judoka. He has won two world cup medals in Warsaw and Talinn in the under 73 kg division. What sets him apart from many others is that he combines judo training with studying for a mechanical engineering phd.
Rhadi Ferguson is a Bahamian-American mma trainer as well as black belt in both judo and bjj. Ferguson is a 4xAmerican champion in judo who even competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. It’s also worth noting he received his bjj black belt from Ricardo Liborio. As far as academia goes Ferguson graduated with a BA in mechanical engineering and later went on to receive his MA in teaching as well as a phd in education. Rhadi Ferguson took up many feats, in his own words he “just wanted to continue to learn”.
Shane Carwin’s nickname is “The engineer”. When we hear such a nickname relating to a martial artist our minds usually go to the “tune up the opponent” space. However in Shane’s case, he has 2 bachelor’s degrees – in Mechanical engineering and in environmental technology! While he was at college, he was twice the heavyhweight NCAA division 2 wrestling national runner –up. In 1999 he even became the number one Wrestler in this division.
Being a legend does not mean bypassing academics. Dan Gable received his BA degree from Iowa state in 1971. From there he would go on to be appointed to be the part of a coaching tandem with Gary Kurdelmeier that ushered in a Hawkeyes era. One of the most intimidating wrestlers to have ever walked the Earth has a degree in Education. It’s easy to see how this would come in handy to someone who spent almost half of their life in a coaching position. While education isn’t particularly flashy as far as majors go, it’s definitely more than handy. It’s worth mentioning he’s one of a number of American wrestling legends who have majored in Education. Others include: both Schultz brothers, Bruce Baumgartner, Bobby Weaver, Terry Brands …
Post Script (added after publication):
Draculino- Finished law school.
Ricard Demente- solicitor.
Eddie Cummings – Masters degree in Mathematics, worked in Math department of a University.
John Danaher- Masters degree in philosophy from Columbia University.
Dai Yoshioka- Doctor.
Ana Yagues- PhD in High Energy Physics.
Ida Hansson- Doctor.
Valerie Worthington- PhD in Educational Psychology.
Anna Mayne- phd.
Rosi Sexton- phd.
Omar Sabha- MBA. And an MHA.