Friday, 4 April 2014

An Interview with The Florida Boy AJ Agazarm

Check out this recent interview I did with AJ Agazarm. AJ is a black belt under Eduardo de Lima, and is a pretty well-known person in the BJJ community. He often appears on This Week in BJJ with Budo Jake, and is regular competitor in IBJJF tournaments. Along his career, he has taken medals in nearly every major IBJJF tournament across the world. He was only recently promoted to black belt in June of last year, and is currently ranked #1 in his division and #2 in the open weight at nogi black belt. I hope you guys enjoy!


For those who don’t know much about you, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? You first started off wrestling, but how did you make the jump to Jiu-Jitsu?

I first started wrestling in high school and then had the opportunity to continue my wrestling career in college. During my first year in college, there was a teammate of mine that entered into a cage fight and had me go to the event with him as his cornerman. When we arrived to the event, there was a bout that one of the athletes did not show for and it happened to be the same weight as me. The organization was looking to fill the bout last minute. I overheard and said that I would take the fight. The organization allowed and fortunately, I walked away with the victory. Immediately after I won, I called my dad of the good news and he informed me of a Jiu Jitsu school not far from where we lived at the time in Florida and that I should check it out when I am back home for the summer. In this time, he called the gym known as Gracie Barra Clearwater and spoke with head professor, Eduardo de Lima. He let Professor Eduardo know I was interested in trying his class and informed him of my background. Professor Eduardo de Lima laughed and said, "bring the wrestler to me" and hung up the phone. When we arrived to the gym, my dad asked Eduardo to make me into a world champ and from there; I began my training during the summer of 2006 twice a day, 6 days a week under the lineage of Gracie Barra and Eduardo de Lima.

What would you say the strengths and weaknesses are of both wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu? Would you the two go hand in hand with each other?

The sport of wrestling is a great teacher. It gives athletes a great base on their feet and a level of intensity that is second to none. It taught me the importance of hard work and this helped me in many areas both on and off the mat. Jiu Jitsu takes a very different approach. To me, Jiu Jitsu is about knowing yourself, knowing your strengths and improving on them. Through Jiu Jitsu, I learned how to channel my strengths into ways that allowed me to defeat my opponent with little effort and this is an ongoing lesson.
Source: BJJPix

Do you believe straight Jiu-Jitsu will beat straight wrestling?

In competition, I learned wrestling does not beat Jiu Jitsu. Maybe at the lower belts, but as you progress further into your career and higher in rank the surface of the mats get hotter and if you’re not careful, you will get burned.

Could you take us through some of your earliest memories of Jiu-Jitsu?

Some of my earliest memories of Jiu Jitsu take me back to my first summer training with Professor Eduardo and meeting Master Carlos for the first time as a white belt. Some of these lessons still follow me to this day. I also look back to when my dad took me to all the local tournaments in Florida at the time of my white and blue belt years. We travelled all around florida with my brothers, competing in tournaments almost every weekend. These were some of the best of times. I remember the feeling of support I had in my first major tournament victory and the support from my team mates. I still remember how proud Eduardo and my dad were of me. Such great times.
At what point did you know you wanted to make Jiu-Jitsu your life?

As soon as I started Jiu Jitsu, my goal has been to become a black belt world champion. This goal has led me to learn and adapt to a martial art entirely and I knew wasn’t something I could be part time. After I graduated from college, I had the opportunity to move out west and live with Kayron Gracie to compete and help teach at his school. From there, I made the decision to travel and compete as much as I possibly could.

Could you tell us a little bit about your Professor Eduardo de Lima? And what is your relationship like with him?

My relationship with Professor Eduardo de Lima is truly something special. I view him as a father and mentor to me, but at the same time he is one of my best friends. I have learned and continue to learn so much from him. As I have gone further through Jiu Jitsu and have met more and more people in the Jiu Jitsu community, I have realized more and more how fortunate I was to learn from Professor Eduardo de Lima.

AJ with his Professor Eduardo de Lima
Source: Preston Smith

Could you take us through what an average week in your life is like?
My average week when I am not traveling for competitions consists of Jiu Jitsu training, strength and conditioning, and teaching along with private lessons.
What were your earliest memories of competition like?

Some of my earliest memories of competition date back to when my dad took me all over Florida competing in the smaller circuits then taking me out to California for the first time to compete in the 2007 PanAm Championship as a blue belt. From there I met some of the people that I would become close with over the next several years.
When you go to compete, what is your strategy going into the match?

My strategy going into my matches is to have fun. Entirely. Not just on the mat competing, but with all involved with the sport and its process. If you have nerves or are anxious, to me something isn’t right and that translates into how you compete. I compete the best when I look at my competition as a whole and enjoy it all. After all, it’s why I do it.
You come from a wrestling background, and you look for takedown in the majority of your matches, but sometimes do you ever like to play guard?

In my early competition years I would mostly go for the takedown, but as my goal was to become more and more of a well rounded fighter and to learn the art of Jiu Jitsu I became more comfortable off my back. For the majority of my brown belt career, I pulled guard.

One of my favourite matches of yours was in the absolute final of 2013 Brazilian Nationals against Paulo Miyao. What was your strategy leading into the match? And can you explain what your experience was like fighting Miyao?

In the match against Paulo Miyao, my strategy was to make a show and from the looks of it, that was his as well. Paulo is a great fighter and for me the match was very fun and I hope one day we get to make it happen again.

Last year you had the opportunity to fight at ADCC in China. Could you talk us through some of the matches you had at the tournament? And explain to us what it was like to be part of such a prestigious tournament?

Being a part of ADCC was such a unique and fun experience. Traveling all the way across the world to China to compete on the highest stage with some of my teammates was exhilarating. I had two matches. My first with DJ Jackson and the second with Checkmat leader, Leo Viera. Both went a total of 20 minutes. I wish I would have had the opportunity to fight the victor, Kron Gracie, but hopefully sometime in the future.
AJ against Leo Viera
Source: GracieMag
In late 2012, you entered the BJJ Kumite presented by Lloyd Irvin as an alternate, and took on some of the best brown belts from around the globe, including Keenan Cornelius. How did you feel going up against Keenan? Did you feel at all confident? As you has already scored a victory over him as a purple belt at the 2011 Pan Ams.
My experience with the Kumite as a whole was interesting to say the least. Going up against Keenan is fine, but to me he’s not the most exciting competitor and a lot of times his style slows up the match and that’s frustrating for me and not something I enjoy as a challenge.

You’re a relatively new black belt, and so far in your career you have picked up a total 15 medals in IBJJF competitions as a black belt, along the way scoring victories over some big time competitors in the sport. You have already accomplished a lot thus far, but what are some of your goals for the rest of 2014?

My goals for the rest of 2014 are to continue traveling and competing as much as I can and to have fun with it all. Next on my list of competitions are: Rome Open, European NoGi, NY Open, Brazilian Nationals, a super fight with Gilbert Burns in Miami for the ADCC coordinators, and then the Mundial in late May.

Could you tell us some Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who you really admire?

Some Jiu Jitsu practitioners that I really look up to are the Rutulo Twins. Their commitment to be great and dedication to the sport at such a young age is inspiring.
I’ve seen videos of you in the past doing strength & conditioning workouts, would you say this is a major part of your training regime?

Some of my best performances are a result of my strength and conditioning and my team over at Velocity Sports Performance helps keep me at my optimum level of performance.

Could you take us through what your diet consists of? And any supplements you may be taking?

My diet consists mostly of Sambazon Acai.

How much of a role would you say diet plays in Jiu-Jitsu?

Eating well and keeping your body at all optimum levels is crucial for peak performance. You can’t be eating Mcdonalds expecting to win a world title let alone staying in good shape.

What are some of your future goals in Jiu-Jitsu?

Some of my initial goals when I first started Jiu Jitsu I have accomplished, but my main goal has been to win a World Championship as a black belt and for the first time this year I get the opportunity to do that.


Could you see yourself doing MMA in the future?
I first started Jiu Jitsu so that one day I can transfer to the UFC as a black belt. That is still something that sits in the forefront of my mind, but first I am focused on my goals in Jiu Jitsu.
When you have free time, what are some of the things you like to do?

When I have free time, I like to skydive, go wake boarding, and snowboard. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
Recently, Otavio Sousa was fired from his position at Gracie Barra Irvine. What is your opinion on the situation itself? And the reason why they fired him?

I am not sure to the extent of why Otavio Sousa was let go from Gracie Barra Irvine, but what I do know is that it is not at all something that is stemmed from our association or its leaders. Gracie Barra Irvine is a local gym that hired Otavio as a professor. Recently the school was sold to some buyers and from there it was no longer considered our headquarters. Otavio is and always will be a member of Gracie Barra.
And finally, the most important question of them all! Will you be returning to your long hair?

I am not sure if I will ever grow my hair out again, but you never know haha.
Okay, time for the quick fire questions, they are:

1.       Peanut Butter or Jelly? Can’t have one without the other.
2.       China or Japan? Never been to Japan. Loved the Great Wall.
3.       Phone Call or In Person? Things are always best in person.
4.       Video Games or Board Games? Chess.
5.       Fantasy or Reality? Reality
6.       Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Never seen either
7.       De La Riva or X-Guard? Both are fun
8.       Gift Cards or Cash? Gift cards are limiting
9.       Amazon or Ebay? Amazon
10.   DX or NWO? Don't know
11.   Keenan or Miyao? Miayos x10
12.   Hogan or Savage? Hogan is from my hometown
13.   Bike or Car? Car
14.   Ketchup or Mustard? Mustard
15.   Red or Green Ranger? Red
16.   Kenan or Kel? Kel
17.   CD or Download? Download
18.   Roger Moore or Sean Connery? Don't know
19.   GSP or Silva? GSP is GB
20.   50/50 or Berimbolo? 50/50 is satans gift to Jiu Jitsu 

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