Latvia’s Jevgenijs Minajevs, Pedro Sauer Black Belt, on BJJ in Latvia and Benefits of Wrestling for BJJ


Hi Jevgenijs, please introduce yourself to the BJJ community of Eastern Europe 

Hello to all of the Eastern Europe BJJ practitioners. My name is Jevgenijs Minajevs and I am from Riga, Latvia. I am Black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu under Professor Pedro Sauer. I am 32 years old and out of them 24 I gave to wrestling, BJJ and other grappling arts. Currently I am training and teaching in Riga. I do not have any titles to be extremely proud of. I was in freestyle wrestling national team in Latvia until I was 20. Won some BJJ tournaments in USA as well as had 14 MMA fights. My MMA record is 9-5.

How did you start training Wrestling and BJJ? (please guide us through your BJJ journey)

Old picture with Pedro Sauer and Greg Nelson

My wrestling training started when I was 6 years old. I was very lucky to have a great coach and great team to train with. I won my first big tournament when I was 12 – Baltic championship in my age group, than at age 14 I won Championship of Latvia and kept this title until I turn 20. In year 2000 I moved to USA and in 2001 walked in to the gym of Dave Menne, former UFC champion. After working with me for a few months he suggested that I should train under his coach, Greg Nelson in Academy(formerly Minnesota Martial Art Academy). And that was a point when I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Please tell us your about your BJJ academy in Latvia.

I came back to Latvia in August of last year. Finding place to train was a first thing I had to do, when I came back home. Latvia has good grappling traditions, we have a lot guys practicing wrestling, judo and sambo. However, I was looking for group of guys who decided to switch to BJJ. One of them was Vladislav Chernavsky – former Combat Sambo Champion, brown belt in BJJ. He, with his friends, has created small but good group of people to practice with. In April I decided to open my own Academy. At this point it is just a small place with a small group of people training. I am following Professor Pedro Sauer curriculum, I do think that he developed one of the best way to start a new, successful team. Hopefully, in few years I will have few guys to represent Latvia in international competitions.

How was it training BJJ in the USA?

Academy in Minnesota is one the best places one can train. When I started it was little hole to train in, and now it is one of the best training facilities in US. Greg Nelson is one of the best coaches student can have and he helped me a lot with everything, starting from my game strategy to little details, which help me to finish submissions. At Academy I trained with some of the best guys in MMA and BJJ. Many black belts came and gave seminars, sharing their knowledge. I had a chance to train with black belts from schools like Alliance, Mario Sukata, Gracie Barra and Pedro Sauer.

How developed is BJJ in Latvia? Is there much training with other Baltic countries or Scandinavian countries? Are there any future champions that we should look out for?


In Latvia BJJ is still in starting level. Often people do not see the difference between Japanese ju-jitsu and BJJ, or grappling and BJJ. Many grapplers are missing basic techniques, while going after complicated moves. However, I have big hopes that soon it will change and they will understand the difference. And, hopefully soon after that we will surprise the world with our champions.

What does Master Pedro Sauer represent for you?

Professor Pedro Sauer is one of the Pioneers, who had to bring BJJ to USA and prove that it is one of the most effective martial arts in the world. The program he developed is just great. You can watch him showing the same, basic move over and over, and learn something new from each time. He is like an open book of BJJ technique, you just need to know, what are you looking for and he will give the answer.

Do you do any other sports apart from Jiu-Jitsu and do they help your BJJ game? 

I came from the freestyle wrestling, and that is the main influence on my BJJ. I would never jump a guard, and would never teach anyone how to. I do think that good takedown can change match outcome. Another influence on my BJJ was Yoga. I had car accident, which messed my lower back. To treat this injury I went to Bikram Yoga. While helping to heal, Yoga showed my how to relax and flow through positions. This new skill improved my BJJ.

Do you plan on competing this year in European competitions?

I do think about competing in Europe Open. However, my main concentration is on growing my Academy. And as many other guys do, I do work a daytime job and teach at night, what make it a bit harder to have a good training camp.

Since you are a BB under Pedro Sauer, how much Self defense did you learn?

Professor Pedro Sauer gives a lot of attention to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu self defense. So, while concentrating on BJJ as a sport I had to learn the basics of the self defense. What I like about it is simplified to the level that anyone can use it.

What is your opinion on cross training with Wrestling to help your BJJ game? 

Training with Andre Galvao

I do look at BJJ as a martial art, not only sport. In BJJ sport to often guys start from the ground or jump the guard. However if it is street you do not want to end up on your back, unless you can finish with submission fast. Because of my wrestling I can choose when I want to fight you. If I know that your ground is better than my I will choose to stand. If I know that you are better on your feet – I will take you down. In competition I can have points for takedown, get great control on top and than stand up again. Wrestling gives you another game plan option, and your opponent has to counter that.

If you want to thank somebody please feel free 

I want to thank Vladislav Dzerinsh, for making me good wrestler. I want to thank Greg Nelson and Ishmael Bentley for making me a good BJJ grappler. As well as everybody else, who helped me to train and improve. I also want to thank Vladislav Chernavsky for welcoming me to Latvian BJJ community.

Thank you Jevgenijs and all the best!


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