Friday, 29 August 2014

An Interview with The 2014 Purple Belt Absolute World Champion Edwin Najmi

I'm very excited to bring you guys today an interview with Edwin Najmi. He is one of Jiu-Jitsu's rising stars and throughout his career has captures many major titles in our sport. It has been a privilege to get the opportunity to interview him. I hope you guys enjoy. 

Source: Preston Smith

So first off, could you please introduce yourself to people who may not be totally familiar with yourself?

My name is Edwin Najmi. I’m 21 years old, BJJ brown belt. I train at Gracie Barra Northridge under Romulo Barral. I recently won the 2014 Absolute World Championship at purple belt and I believe I was the only featherweight in history to win it as a purple belt. I have also won the Pan Ams 5 times and won the 2014 Abu Dhabi Pro in the featherweight division.

What is your Jiu-Jitsu story?
Basically, my cousin used to wrestle and beat me up as a joke on his living room floor all the time. So I wanted to get back at him and the only way I could was to get better at grappling. So I walked in to the local grappling school and that’s how it all started.

What is Romulo Barral like to have as your professor? And how is your overall relationship like with him?

Having Romulo Barral as my professor is incredible. I get to hang out, train, and learn from one of the best competitors of my sport on the daily basis. It’s like hanging out with the Michael Jordan of your sport in his prime every day. I learn something new every day from him whether it’s about jiu jitsu or life. He is a great person to be around and look up too. He’s like the older brother I never had, that passes on a lot of knowledge to me and bullies me sometimes as well.

Edwin with Romulo Barral

Other than Romulo, who else do you look up to in Jiu-Jitsu?

I look up to Samuel Braga, Cobrinha, Estima Brothers, Felipe Pena to name a few. They all not only have sick jiu jitsu but are also great ambassadors of the sport.

Could you take us through what an average week is like for you? And do you do anything to supplement your Jiu-Jitsu?

I basically train jiu jitsu 2x a day every day. Each session is about 2-3 hours with a lot of sparring, specific training and some drills. I lift weights 2x a week and powerlift heavy 2-3x a month. I don’t like to do any running or conditioning to help my cardio. I don’t think it helps with jiu jitsu. I rather just train more jiu-jitsu. I don’t train on Sundays.

You are known for your very aggressive guard. Have you always been a guard player? And how has your game evolved since you began training?

I’ve pretty much been an aggressive guard player since day one. Every year/belt I added more tools to my game. I started just playing closed guard at white belt, and then added spider guard at blue belt, then de la riva at purple belt. I’m just trying to always evolve and figure out new techniques and tricks. I never played on top in a tournament until I was a purple belt, but that’s when I realized I really had to start evolving and getting better on top. I would say my top game might be better than my guard now.

You’re also known for your triangles and foot locks. What made you favour these submissions in particular?

They just came naturally and I was good at them. So I just stuck to doing what was easy and won me tournaments. I just had to start adding different setups and details over the years.

Source: IBJJF

Do you think drilling is important for Jiu-Jitsu?

There’s this big debate going on about this in the jiu-jitsu world right now. I think drilling is important if you’re not too good at the technique. But after a while I think specific training is way more important. Your opponent trying to escape and resist will make you way better at the position. But, honestly it all depends on the person and technique/position and what they feel like is better for them. For example, if I drill a straight ankle lock with no resistance, I’m probably not going to get better at it. But, if I do a specific training where my partner is trying to defend and get out. I will definitely improve at finishing the technique. On the other hand, if I’m doing a position that I’m not good at, like deep half-guard sweeps. Drilling is going to be the better option for improving my technique.

What is the training like at your academy?

The training when everyone is getting ready for the big tournaments is insane. We have so many tough guys that are pushing each other to the limits. I would name a few, but there is too many. Blessed to be surrounded by such great athletes every day.

If you could sum up your Jiu-Jitsu in three words, what would they be?

Challenge is exciting.

You are a very frequent competitor, and along the way have captured many of our sports major titles. What is it about competition you love so much?

Winning a tournament is the greatest feeling in the world. Competing is just something that is a part of me and it always will be. It’s hard to explain to people that don’t do it. Pushing yourself to new limits that you didn’t even think was possible is what it is all about.

Could you take us through your first competition experience?

This is a great story, haha. So, I competed at Gokor’s in-house grappling tournament. I guess the rules were different than other tournaments, so I beat the 2 other guys in my division and I am dead tired lying on the floor thinking I’m done for the day. I thought I won the tournament, so I call my mom and tell her I won and start changing out of my rash guard. Then, a couple minutes later, they tell me I have to fight again in the final against the tough guy I just beat in my 2nd match. So I had to fight again and I somehow won, despite being completely exhausted. I had to win, because I already told my Mom that I had won first place, couldn’t end up letting her down

You’ve had the opportunity to compete in two Jiu-Jitsu Battle events. In the first Jiu-Jitsu Battle, you had a quick triangle on Wayne Ashford in your first match, and in the second you faced Michael Liera Jr to lose a very good match. Michael at the time was considered to be the best purple belt in the world and perhaps the favourite to win and he did. What was your opinion on the match? And did you see Michael as your biggest competition? 

I fought really badly in that match; I wasn’t really prepared at all and paid for it. Liera was definitely one of the best guys at the time and still is for sure one of the toughest guys I’ve ever competed against.

In the third edition of Jiu-Jitsu Battle, you came back and won the event. How did it feel? And would you compete in another Jiu-Jitsu Battle if asked?

It felt amazing to redeem myself. Jiu Jitsu Battle is one of the best events I’ve competed in. I can’t wait to compete at the next one. Jiu Jitsu Battle 4 is in the works, so stay tuned!

Source: GrappleTV

Are there any competitions you haven’t had the chance to compete in which you would like to in the future?

Yes, I’m looking forward to competing at the Europeans and Brazilian Nationals next year. Also the ADCC 2015.

Last year you were disqualified in your first match in the worlds. Did this motivate you to make a lasting impression at this year’s worlds?

It was actually my 3rd or 4th fight I think. But, yeah definitely I was hungry to come back and make a statement this year.

After taking silver in your division, were you determined to take gold in the absolute?

I honestly didn't know what to think. I just knew I had to do it. I had to redeem myself.

This year you became absolute world champion. How did it feel to achieve such a prestigious title? And has it always been your goal to get an absolute world title?

Best feeling of my life. It’s been a goal, but my main goal was to win the featherweight world title. My teammates have been joking with me, that I would win the worlds absolute with a flying triangle all year long. I guess they we’re right, haha.

You finished off your final match in the absolute division with spectacular fashion, submitting Nicholas Meregali with a flying triangle. Did you plan this? Or did it just come to you in the moment?

Meregali is a monster and much bigger than me. So I knew I had to do something crazy. I was confident in my flying triangle, so I just went for it.

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Of course, after taking gold in the absolute, you were promoted to brown belt by your professor, Romulo Barral. Did you feel it was the right time to be promoted? Or did you feel you had more to accomplish at purple belt?

I felt like it was the right time to be promoted. If you win the worlds at any belt, you should 100% get promoted. There’s no bigger title left to win.

Now you are a brown belt, who do you feel is your biggest competition?

So many tough guys, it would be hard to name them all. But pretty much everyone I fought the 1st year I was a purple belt, will be my same opponents at brown belt.

Do you think your style of Jiu-Jitsu will work well in the brown belt division?

I’m confident it will. I’m so excited to finally be able to use calf slicers, knee bars, toeholds and everything.

Do you think you will need to change your game a little bit due to new submissions available?

I think I’ll need a bit of time to adapt to some leg lock defense but after that I should be good. Before I trained jiu jitsu, I trained a bit with the guys at Gokors. They are the leg lock kings haha.

Source: GrappleTV

What are some of your goals for the rest of 2014?

Nogi Pan Ams Champion, Nogi World Champion, ADCC Trials Champion.

Looking at the big picture, what are some of your longtime goals?

Black belt world champion.

What is your opinion on Rickson Gracie’s new promotion, the JJGF? And would you be interested in competing in one of their tournaments?

I think it’s an awesome promotion. I’m looking forward to competing in their tournaments. Always good when new tournaments come forward with their new point systems and ideas.

Do you see yourself competing in MMA in the near future?

Not sure, when I started jiu jitsu at 16, my goal was to compete at the highest level in MMA. But I love jiu jitsu too much, so probably not.

What did you think of Metamoris 4?
It was awesome, great fights. Wish there were more fights in the GI though.

Tell us one thing which we do not know about you?

I’m the founder of BestofBJJ.

Besides Jiu-Jitsu, what other things do you like to do?

I play futsal once a week; work on social media for some of the biggest companies in jiu jitsu.

Okay, time for the quick fire questions, they are:

1. Spicy or Mild? Spicy
2. Personal Chef or Personal Fitness Trainer? Chef for sure.
3. Zaptos, Articuno or Moltres? Articuno.
4. The Big Show or Andre the Giant? Andre The Giant.
5. Roller Coaster or Ferris Wheel? Roller Coaster
6. DC or Marvel? Marvel
7. “Ready, aim, fire” or “Ready, fire, aim”? Ready, fire, aim.
8. Frag or Semtex? Frag
9. NWO or DX? Not sure
10. Modern or Classic? Modern
11. Top Gear UK or Top Gear US? UK
12. Cell Phone or Internet? Internet
13. Sharks or Snakes? Sharks
14. Facial Hair or Clean Shaven? Depends if I’m lazy or not haha
15. Sudoku or Crossword Puzzles? Crossword
16. Orange Juice or Apple Juice? Apple Juice
17. Royler Gracie or Eddie Bravo? Both Legends
18. De la Riva or Reverse De la Riva? De La Riva
19. Sean Connery or Roger Moore? Sean Connery
20. Bacon or Sausage? Turkey Bacon

Thank you very much Edwin for the interview, it has been an honor. Before we end is there anybody who you would like to thank?

Thank you for the opportunity. That was a fun interview. Thanks Storm Kimonos, Max Muscle Fullerton, KILL CLIFF for supporting me!

Where can we follow you at?

You can follow me on social media at:


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