Ex Powerlifting World Champion Wins First Competition as a BJJ Blue Belt in Absolute Division

Ex Powerlifting World Champion Wins First Competition as a BJJ Blue Belt in Absolute Division

Powerlifting is an extraordinarily tough sport. Athletes that train it gain great strength, that could be later easily transferred to the skills on the mats!
Such was the case for Mark MacQueen, an ex world champion powerlifter and a BJJ blue belt. Last week, at the Grappling Industries competition in Manchester (UK), he earned a win in the absolute division… Against a purple belt, brown belt, and two black belts – one of which was Ross Nicholls, a British champion and Polaris Veteran.

In a conversation with the Grappling Insider, Mark went on to explain both his transition from powerlifting to BJJ, as well as other interesting things.



26 years old and coming from Scotland, MacQueen is a former IPF World Champion Powerlifter whose best total was 920kg (squat, bench, and deadlift combined); which is also the biggest total ever in Scottish powerlifting. He won the Scottish Championships in powerlifting six times, the British Championships four times, Europeans, Commonwealth and the World Championships.
But why, then, did he make the transfer to Jiu-Jitsu? With all of these successes in powerlifting, it seems like an unexpected decision. Mark went on to explain:

At the end of 2018, I felt disillusioned with powerlifting full time. I was sick of being so big and heavy; eating 8000 calories a day – it was like a full time job just eating.
I felt disillusioned with it, I just needed a change. I didn’t want to be so big and heavy and wanted to change my lifestyle a bit.

MacQueen powerlifting deadlift

Even though that MacQueen’s been training for two years, he still feels like a beginner in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

I’ve only been training for two years. When I think of myself, I still feel like a beginner. I don’t actually think I’m any good at Jiu-Jitsu but I must be doing alright.

For the first few months I remember thinking I don’t actually know what the point of Jiu-Jitsu is. What’s the goal? Where do you go? Where do you end up? It was really weird. But then 4-5 months in I did my first competition and that’s when it first started to really make sense to me.



The competition in Manchester was Mark’s first as a blue belt and the absolute was his first division. This is what he had to say about those amazing wins against higher-ranked belts:

It was amazing. Really well run. I did the absolute first and later did the weight classes. First match was against a black belt and I went out and RNC’d him. Then I got a mounted arm bar on the purple belt and won against a high level brown belt – I had a kimura behind his back but the buzzer went, and then I had the finals against Ross Nicholls. It’s funny because it was almost absolutely delusional. I thought it would be impossible for me to win.

It was good. Obviously he is like a million times better at jiu jitsu than I am, like he just obviously is. He pulled guard and it was a case of he couldn’t do anything to me; move me or get under because I’m just too big. He’s probably just under 75kg, so I have the best part of 30-40kg on him. I just think I was too big to really do anything to. I got past his legs a few times, but just his jiu jitsu – his guard retention, his frames, he was absolutely amazing.

After winning, Mark was awarded his purple belt as well!

MacQueen Purple Belt Promotion