Winning tournaments and being a champion is an important thing, but it`s not the only thing. That`s one way to describe the philosophy about BJJ and life of the 20-years old black belt Roberto Jimenez. It sounds like common sense, but not many competitors live and die by it like this up-and-coming grappler. There is something special about this kid – he walks it as he talks it and his mission is much more global than the widespread “I want to be the best ever”. With that said, the Jimenez`s mentality and persona cannot be described easily and with just a few sentences.
Roberto`s huge competition experience for his young age and his exposure to sports since he was 4 might be one of the main reasons for his mature behavior and his views on life. Roberto is born in Miami, Florida in a family of Ecuadorian emigrants. He spent his first years living in South America, but when he was 10, his family finally settled in Texas. Despite having some language barrier issues, Roberto did not give up on learning and training BJJ. That wasn`t the only problem he was facing as a young kid – he didn`t win a gold medal until he was 13 and he didn`t like competing that much. But after Jimenez tasted the victory in a final of a competition he started training up to three times a day, quickly becoming obsessed.
“I mean, I was a kid that would hide in the bathroom before class and they’d have to call my dad to come get me on the mat. I was just a kid that never stopped. I never stopped believing in my dream and I feel like that’s the only difference between me and the rest, honestly” , Jimenes tells grapplinginsider.com
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Roberto even started testing himself against bigger, older, stronger guys ever when he turned 14. It didn`t matter to him back then, if it was Gi or No Gi and it doesn`t matter to him now. At some competitions, he was taking 8 medals home leaving everybody with their jaws dropped. At the age of 15 he got his first invitation for a pro-tournament. He took the trophy at the “Royal Invitational” and won his first cash prize from BJJ tournament. He was also 2x Pan-Ams Kids Champion, Worlds Champion, No Gi Worlds Champion and double golded from American Nationals and Europeans by the time he turned 17.
In 2018 he was already a purple belt and under the guidance of his father Raul Gimenez and the living legend Lucas Lepri he double-golded from Worlds and brought a lot of attention to himself with his aggressive forward-going game from top, stunningly fast takedowns and creative guard game. He looked like the full package even back then.
“I didn`t really think about it too much….it`s my first year at adults and I finished all my matches. I see the absolute now” Roberto said before heading on to win his second gold medal at the second day of IBJJF Worlds 2018.
After several dramatic matches and several more submissions, Roberto squared off against fellow American Mason Fowler in the open weight final. After a quick back take from a scramble, he scored yet another choke from the back. In this tournament he submitted all 10 of his opponents.
“I had fun on the mats. That`s my secret. I had fun and laughed. I won!”
Roberto didn`t take any time off and continued racking up win after win at invitationals and tournaments and even came close to qualifying for ADCC Worlds. He finished second in the 2018 West Coast Trials losing to the very tough DJ Jackson. Things became harder and harder as he started facing tougher opposition at brown belt and took on some black belts at invitational events. Nevertheless, Roberto kept on pushing.
“I’ve had a lot of times when I wanted to quit, but when I thought about having a regular life, I personally don’t like school and I don’t like 9-to-5 jobs. Not living my dreams would’ve made me regret my decisions 20 years from now. So whenever I thought about that, I’d think: keep working, you already started, why stop now? I didn’t get this far to only come this far, but to go further”
In 2019 Roberto won Pans No Gi at heavyweight and took bronze in the open class. In this tournament he defeated the tough Gracie Barra representative Pedro Marinho just few weeks after losing to him at Third Coast Grappling event. This would turn out to be a long rivalry.
He became a world champion again. This time at No GI Worlds. He won the absolute division (submitting all his opponents), but took silver in his division losing by two points in the final. Jimenez was not really happy with his performance, but at that tournament he was promoted to black belt by his father and officially entered the big boys game.
His debut at black belt did not disappoint and was definitely something he`ll be proud of till the rest of his life. He defeated one of the best American grapplers, the lapel master Keenan Cornelius at an invitational event!
Proving that his berimbolos can work at the highest level Roberto vigorously stormed through the IBJJF Kansas Open where he took double gold and defeated another prospect Felipe Andrew via choke. He then took on Lucas “The Hulk” Barbosa and conceited the first L in his black belt journey.
“Well fellas, we win some and we lose some. Onto the next, headstrong” was his comment in Instagram after getting armbarred by “The Hulk”.
Since then Roberto has beaten top names like Manuel Ribamar, John Combs, Nathan Orchard, Vagner Rocha, Nick Rodriguez, The Ruotolo Bros and won big cash prizes from the Thirst Coast Grappling (TCG) invitational tournaments. Despite his rapid success to the top Jimenez remains humble and down to earth. Here`s what he said before winning 10 000 US dollars for the second time at TCG:
“If I can get this win tonight, I plan on keeping a small percentage of the money to myself and the rest I’ll give back to some of my aunts and uncles who lost their jobs. Another percentage is going to go to kids in Uganda that I’ve been working with and some kids in Ecuador too, orphanages that have been trying to do jiu-jitsu. And yeah, hopefully I can help them out a little bit”
Roberto`s a true example of how to handle your ego and that can also be noticed in his non-political BJJ attitude about training in different gyms.
“……being able to train with people like Lucas Lepri and Gordon Ryan, the guys in Unity. Pretty much anyone who I looked up to and got the opportunity to train with helped me in their own way. Whether it was motivational or technique, or a life lesson, I try to take everything in. If you only learn from one source, I believe it becomes rigid and stale. All these people that I look up to motivated me to want to start this life, this journey. So when I got to meet them, I would take everything into consideration but also with a grain of salt. At the end of the day I’m not them and I need to find my own recipe to succeed”
Roberto has the potential to be the next superstar in BJJ, but will his technique and attitude be appreciated by the mainstream BJJ fans? He seems like the embodiment of the “true martial artist”, but only time will prove, if he will be remembered as a legend of the sport. Perhaps, people like him care more about leaving something behind him than being remembered.
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Learn How To Turn Any Position Into A Road-Map To The Back, The Most Dominant Position In Jiu-Jitsu: