From Euroleague & The NBA To BJJ: Serbian Basketball Legend Igor Rakocevic & His Love For Jiu-Jitsu

From Euroleague & The NBA To BJJ: Serbian Basketball Legend Igor Rakocevic & His Love For Jiu-Jitsu


Igor Rakočević is a Serbian professional basketball player who has played for major basketball teams including Red Star Belgrade, Real Madrid and for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. He also won the World and European championship with Yugoslavia and Serbia. For the past few years, he has been training in BJJ at Zerjal Team in Belgrade and this year has taken it really seriously and been training every day. In this interview with BJJ Eastern Europe, the basketball legend talks about his new found love for BJJ, check it out:

Hi Igor, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of Eastern Europe?

Hello, I am Igor Rakocevic, 35 years old, professional basketball player from Belgrade, Serbia, Zerjal Team Blue Belt in Jiu-jitsu, training in all Zerjal Team gyms in Belgrade… My main successes as a basketball player are european and world champion with Yugoslavia, Spanish, Italian, Serbian League Champion and many other team titles. 3 times best scorer of Euroleague.

How did you discover BJJ and how did you start training?

Its very funny how I got into jiujitsu. As a hardcore professional, I always trained like a madman, since I started my professional career at age of 15, untill this last season with 35 years old… When I started to play for 1 foreign team(I won’t say its name because i don’t want to harm their reputation), I was preety much dissapointed and worried once playing there because they didn’t train hard enough… I had to have some extra sports activity outside training gym… I was in panic that I will be out of shape for games because of teams bad conditioning work..At that moment one of my teammates got me into watching UFC and Pride fights and I became a fan… It was very interesting to me, so I decided to try something like MMA, just without punching and kicking because of injuries…. We said “let’s try BJJ”so we can burn that extra fat…. So I went to some random guys amateur class and I really liked it. After 1st training I remember falling asleep in taxi because I was really pushing it to the limit not trying to get beat and submitted in my 1st class… So I continued to practise BJJ lightly and when I came back to Serbia, I looked on google for BJJ instructor and found legendary Jovan Zerjal… I called him and started doing classes…. That’s when I really learned something in BJJ and liked it a lot!

Igor with master Jovan Zerjal

Igor with master Jovan Zerjal

You have played basketball at the highest level your whole life and accomplished so many titles. What attracts you to BJJ now?

Bjj attracts me a lot because it has endless possibilities and techniques…it is evolving as we speak… And the most I like about it, is that you can beat someone without hurting him… That bjj aspect feels very honorouble and humble for me, it kinda develops your spirit and soul…
I try to train every day.. I feel very proud beeing one of 2 basketball players with blue belt…I belive Shaq is the only other one with blue belt.. Its kinda fun! There are great benefits for body and mind. For example BJJ is great for improving flexibility and fat burning, cardio…

Please tell us about the academy you train in. How often do you train? 

It’s Zerjal Team and all the best BJJ fighters and instructors learned all from Jovan Zerjal who is one of first Black Belts in whole Europe.. There are many great guys who started in this team… Sloba, Bobi, Gile, Profa Tedi, Milan Zerjal(current MMA ProFC champion), etc… I am very happy to share mats with this kind of people…

Igor as a white belt with Jovan Zerjal and Guillaume "Gile" Huni

Igor as a white belt with Jovan Zerjal and Guillaume “Gile” Huni

You have recently received the blue belt. What are your favorite techniques/ throws/ guard passes etc.. in BJJ?

My favourite tehnique is triangle from mount position, and scissor sweep from guard. I also like spider guard. I still feel like very amateur and I can’t wait to learn more.

Do you have any plans to compete in BJJ in the future?

I was hoping to compete as a white belt, but now as a fresh blue belt I will need much more time to be ready to compete at decent level..

What is next for you in 2013/2014?

Next for me in 2013/2014 is pure enjoyment. I worked like a dog all my life, now I will enjoy family, travel, and of course do as much BJJ as I can.

Who are your favorite BJJ/ MMA fighters?

Anderson Silva and Milan Zerjal.

If you want to thank somebody or sponsors, feel free

I would like to thank my mother.