Check out what is going on with the Arizona BJJ Scene

When many people think of high quality jiu jitsu in the United States, Southern California and New York immediately come to mind. While these places are undeniably hotbeds of jiu jitsu talent, Arizona is also home to amazingly talented instructors and competitors. What often separates one area from another in terms of the level of its jiu jitsu is the presence of high quality tournaments, as they challenge practitioners to continually strive to achieve better performance and results. The AZSBJJF and GD Events have been hosting top quality tournaments in Arizona for well over a decade. What started as a 40 person in house tournament in 2001 has expanded into annual competitions for adults, kids, and master level athletes. These tournaments include the AZ Open, The Copa Bella/Kid’s Cup, The AZ State Championships, the Southwest Classic, and the Master’s Cup. Just as the Arizona jiu jitsu scene has come a long way, so has my personal journey to the Grand Canyon State. My name is Danny O’Donnell and I moved to Arizona from Chicago in search of high level jiu jitsu instruction and competition. I will be contributing to the blog in an effort to bring you more awareness about the instructors, athletes, brands, and tournaments that make the Arizona jiu jitsu community so unique. This will include interviews, tournament recaps, seminar reviews, and any other news or information related to Arizona jiu jitsu. These blog entries should provide you with a better understanding of how special our community is and how it fits into the bigger picture of the growth of jiu jitsu in the U.S. Stay tuned and be sure to connect on Facebook and Instagram.

Gerson Atoigue’s Roots BJJ & Fitness

By Danny O’Donnell

Roots BJJ and Fitness first opened its doors in Gilbert, AZ in October 2017 under co-owner and head instructor Gerson Atoigue. Growing up Guam, Gerson wanted to provide a family friendly environment similar to what he had experienced as a kid on the small island. “Family and respect were a huge part of our culture, and it radiates to our students. Many academies emphasize family and I’m very fortunate to actually have my family train with me. My girlfriend, son, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews are all on the mat training and learning together! I think it makes the training more enjoyable when you have a family member training alongside you. The students are very receptive towards my family being there and it makes for great family bonding on a nightly basis!”


After being introduced by a cousin to Jiu Jitsu while in high school, Gerson slowly began to transition away from more traditional sports so he could train Jiu Jitsu more often. “My cousin was already training a little over a year at Ruffhouse Jiu Jitsu under Arthur Ruff, a Rodrigo Medeiros black belt. He brought me in and I tried one class and instantly fell in love, like the majority of people that discover the gentle art. I continued to learn and train this beautiful art meeting so many great individuals along the way, and creating so many memories. I eventually received my black belt from my very first instructor, Arthur Ruff.”

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Arizona State BJJ Federation Ranking System


The GD Events in partnership with the AZSBJJF has been putting on the premier Jiu Jitsu tournaments in the state of Arizona since 2001. Part of establishing such a high standard for tournament promotion involves providing the highest level of service to the jiu-jitsu community. There will be a lot of exciting changes for the 2018 season starting at the AZ Masters Cup on December 2nd, 2017 with a new scoreboard system including TV’s and computers in each competition area and the creation of the AZSBJJF Individual Ranking System.


The AZSBJJF has been working diligently on an individual ranking system for the 2017 season for the adult and masters competitors from blue to black belt, where a first place finish earns 9 points, a second place 3 points and a third place 1 point. Points earned in the 2017 season are then multiplied by 3, a weighting for the current season that gives higher precedence to more recent podium finishes. Previous year points are multiplied by 2 and results earned 2 years ago are multiplied by 1. In addition to the year multiplier, there is also a tournament multiplier. The AZ State Championship is a 3 star tournament, the Southwest Classic and AZ International Open are 2 star tournaments, and the Copa Bella and Masters Cup are 1 star events.

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Arizona State BJJ Federation 2017 Kid’s Team Rankings

By Danny O’Donnell

The 2017 AZSBJJF competition season was a huge success as nearly 20 different schools from across the state were able to earn points towards the overall Kid’s Team Rankings. The top ten schools are listed below and accumulated points over four tournaments; The AZ International Open, the Kid’s Cup, the AZ State Championships and the Southwest BJJ Classic.

  1. One Jiu Jitsu – 647
  2. Maracaba – 512
  3. CTA – 409
  4. Lotus Club Jiu Jitsu – 345
  5. GD Jiu Jitsu/Horizons M.A. – 286
  6. GD Jiu Jitsu Academy – 250
  7. Carlos Farias Jiu Jitsu – 200
  8. Ares/Nava BJJ – 176
  9. Atos Jiu Jitsu – 164
  10. Gracie Barra – 160

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Carlos Farias on Overcoming Injury and His New Academy

The 2016/2017 IBJJF season was huge for Carlos Farias, an Ultra Heavyweight Roberto Traven black belt with a school in Mesa, AZ. In addition to becoming the #6 ranked overall adult competitor, Carlos was also in the midst of making plans to move his academy to a larger location. These accomplishments stand on their own as extremely impressive, but become even more impressive considering Carlos qualifies for the Masters 3 age division. With all of these positive competition results, Carlos decided to compete at the 2017 World Championships in June. During the event, Carlos suffered a major injury, tearing his triceps muscle. This injury would force Carlos into the operating room and off the competition mats.


One of the biggest challenges for competitive athletes is often knowing when to hit the brakes. This is why many athletes cite injuries as the most challenging aspects of their careers. “I tore my tricep at the IBJJF World Championship in June. At first it was a partial tear, but it worsened and my Doctor said that to continue competing and teaching at the level I want to, surgery was mandatory. It was my first major injury of my career. My surgery was in July. It was a complete replacement of the tendon. Recovery is going great, my physical therapy is helping a lot and I look forward to rolling again as soon as December.”

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Participation Medals for kids: Agree or Disagree?
By Danny O’Donnell


Youth sports have long been a huge part of American culture. It is estimated that over 36 million American youth between the ages of 5-18 are involved in organized sports each year. While soccer, baseball and football currently dominate the youth sports demographic, there is no denying the growth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training and competition in this same demographic. Just like more traditional sports, Jiu Jitsu offers physical benefits as well as introducing kids to virtues like hard work, determination and grit.


Additionally, the culture of respect in martial arts is also very appealing to parents who want to raise respectful and honorable kids. While it’s hard to deny these benefits of athletic competition, many organizations have come under scrutiny lately for offering participation awards, which are usually trophies or medals given to kids who compete but end up losing their match or game. Although this may not seem like a big deal on the surface, many contend that it has led to a sense of entitlement amongst today’s youth. These participation medals are very common in Jiu Jitsu as athletes compete based on rank and weight.


The AZSBJJF/GD Events currently Whether or not these participation medals are an issue depends on who you ask. For some these medals represent an award for all of the time and effort put into preparing for the competition. For others, these medals represent a false sense of accomplishment that can lead to unrealistic expectations in other aspects of life.

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Interview with Pedro Diaz from Tigers Lair AZ

Pedro Diaz, Black belt and head instructor of Tiger’s Lair Jiu Jitsu in Mesa, has been training Jiu Jitsu for well over a decade. Although he started the sport as an adult, Pedro has always had ambitious competition goals that have led him to American National and World Master titles. “I started training under Gustavo Dantas in 2004 after my boys Christian and Pedro asked me to try out a Jiu-jitsu class. Needless to say we were all immediately hooked on the sport. I received my Black belt from Gustavo in March 2014 after Winning the World Masters, making me Gustavo’s 2nd black belt to go from white belt to black belt under him. My son Christian was awarded his Black belt in 2016.”


Most Jiu Jitsu academies have an extremely diverse range of students. While this variety of students provides for a dynamic and exciting atmosphere, it can be challenging to create an environment where every student is able to progress towards their goals in an optimal way. For Pedro, however, all competitors should train with a similar mindset. “I believe training for Masters tournaments is no different than training for adults especially in the Black belt division. The competitors are so talented at this level that you have to train as if you were training to compete at the adult level.”


Despite Pedro’s competitive accomplishments, he’s had his fair share of setbacks as well. “I’ve had my share of near career ending injuries like the time I separated my AC joint in the PAN open finals. Fortunately for me Dr. Jenny from Oss Physical Therapy has been working on healing my body since 2010. Because of her talent I have been able to avoid surgeries and make 100% recoveries.”


These setbacks have only fueled Pedro’s future competitive goals. “I most definitely plan to continue competing. Unfortunately after Winning the 2016 US Nationals my wife and I were involved in a terrible car accident that had us in therapy for 8 months and caused me to miss the entire 2017 season. My goal for 2018 is to win the PAN, Nationals & Master Worlds.” To keep up with Pedro’s school and his competitions, visit

Longevity in Jiu Jitsu with Roger Mejia of The Agora BJJ

Roger & Gustavo Dantas

By Danny O’Donnell  

Roger Mejia is the owner and head instructor of The Agora BJJ in Casa Grande, an affiliate of GD Jiu Jitsu Academy. Having trained consistently and competed in both Jiu Jitsu and MMA, Roger has dedicated much of his adult life to Martial Arts. His promotion to black belt in 2016 was a testament to the lifestyle he’s committed to since he started training. “It was a crazy moment as all the years of commuting to the valley paid off. Being able to bring my students to my promotion was an awesome feeling too. I remember the days when I had a full-time job working 12-16 hours to the days when I had to have two jobs and thinking “I’m never going to make it to my purple belt.” Going through all that and now having my own academy and being able to relate to some of my students really made the bumpy/long road totally worth it. Seeing Jiu Jitsu now as a black belt makes me realize I’m never going to know everything and I’m ok with that.”

Persistence and consistency are two traits that many black belts cite as the most important in developing their own skillset and the skills of their students. It is very common to hear about the “Jiu Jitsu lifestyle” as it is often necessary to evaluate all aspects of your life to maximize your potential in Jiu Jitsu. ”I have no clue where I’d be if I didn’t train. I’d probably be unhappy at some crappy job like in the past haha! If you want to make Jiu Jitsu a real lifestyle, be ready to be ok with not having a fancy car, house or any of those material things and be ready to give and keep giving that knowledge to others.”

If you’re struggling to find the time to train every day and fully commit yourself to Jiu Jitsu, Roger can relate. His training was often done between working two jobs and making long commutes from Casa Grande to Tempe. “I can totally relate to anyone that has a demanding work schedule like I had in the past. I have students that have demanding work schedules and have family duties on top of that. I’ve been in the position of not training as much as I wanted to because of life but I do remind my students how good they have it now that they don’t have to commute to the valley to train like I did back in the day. We all hit those bumps in the road and it feels like you’re getting worse and everyone is getting better. Those are the days you need to still go to the gym and not think about going and just go. I always tell my students not to come in with high expectations because you’ve been watching YouTube all weekend. If you haven’t drilled anything new and try it on someone who has been training a while, you’re going to be let down. Everyone sucks at Jiu Jitsu when they start. If you suck because you’re just starting out or coming back from a long break it’s ok.”

In order to get through the ups and downs of Jiu Jitsu, it’s very important to prioritize learning over winning in training. This can often involve putting yourself in uncomfortable positions for the sake of learning and growth. Roger contends that the ability to manage your ego while training is often the key difference between those who train Jiu Jitsu for the long term and those who do not. “This can carry over to a lot of things like knowing when to tap, knowing when to let go when your partner doesn’t want to tap and being able to know how to flow. Flowing is important when it comes to avoiding injuries to yourself and others. You don’t have to train 100% at full throttle every day to have a good training day. Listen to your body. Too often we get injured and say “I should have done this.”

For more on Roger and his school in Casa Grande, visit

AZSBJJF Referee Course in Tempe on Saturday August 12th, 2017


AZSBJJF Referee Course in Tempe on Saturday August 12th, 2017

Would you like to learn more about the IBJJF rules and regulations used in all AZSBJJF events?

The sport jiu-jitsu rules and regulations can be very confusing to updated athletes, coaches and referees, now imagine if you are not up to date at all?

The lack of knowledge and information often times can be the difference between winning or losing a match, an athlete injuring someone or being injured by an illegal move, or even a possible unnecessary argument with the officials or attendants of the tournament.

The AZSBJJF Referee Course, led by Referee Director and Second Degree Black Belt Samir Chantre, will take place on Saturday August 12th, 2017 at GD Jiu-Jitsu Academy located at 1848 E. University Dr. #108 Tempe, AZ from 2pm to 6:45pm.

Not only does this course have the intent of qualifying new Referees and using this opportunity to recycle the knowledge of the current ones, but this course also have the intent of bringing clarity to the Arizona Jiu-Jitsu Community, which means not only qualifying new referees but also educate coaches, parents, and to improve the abilities of our current staff to keep serving you to the best of our abilities.

Who can benefit from this course?

1- Referees

The Course will qualify referees to work in the State of Arizona.

2- Coaches

This course is a great way for coaches to be up to date with the latest IBJJF news, and to serve their students even better by teaching them the proper rules and regulations of the AZSBJJF & IBJJF events.

3- Parents

This course is also a great way for parents to become familiar or even more familiar with the rules and regulations of the IBJJF/AZSBJJF, especially in regards to the restrictions of the illegal moves in certain age classes.


1:00 pm – Doors Open

2:00 pm to 3:10 pm – Course (part 1). The Referee Director will go over the Official IBJJF rules book, answering questions and physically demonstrating when necessary.

3:10 pm to 3:20 pm  – Break #1. Snacks and refreshments will be available.

3:20 pm to 4:30 pm – Course (part 2). The Referee Director will continue part 1 of the course.

4:30 pm to 4:40 pm – Break #2. Snacks and refreshments will be available.

4:40 pm to 5:50 pm – Course (part 3). The Referee Director will continue part 3 of the course.

5:50 pm to 6:00 pm – Break #3. Snacks and refreshments will be available. All attendees will receive a diploma at the end of the course, except for brown and black belts interested in refereeing.

6:00 pm to 6:45 pm – Final part. Mandatory to all Brown Belts and Black Belts with the intentions of being a referee in a future AZSBJJF Events, optional for all other belts.

There will be an Audio Visual Test. The Referee director is going to share 3 (three) black belt matches streamed to be judged by the attendants, who, at the same time, will be scoring the points on a paper that will be turned in at the end of the test, then the brown and black belts will receive their diploma.

There are only 40 spots available. 


Early Registration until August 2nd – $60

Sign up by 08/02/17 and receive a copy of the book:

LAUNCHING YOUR BJJ COMPETITION JOURNEY AFTER 3010 Steps to maximize your tournament experience($14.95 value for free)

After August 2nd – $70 (No book included)

Registration deadline ends on Wednesday, August 9th at 11:59pm or before we reach the maximum capacity of 40 people. NO REGISTRATIONS AT THE DOOR.


World Champion Tanquinho Mendes on BJJ, MMA and Future Plans

By Danny O’Donnell

Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes began training Jiu Jitsu when he was 14 years old in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He began competing very early in his career and became passionate about the sport. Having won gold at the World Championships at blue and purple and taking silver at brown belt, Tanquinho was poised to make a huge impact on the black belt division. The black belt came in 2004 and Tanquinho continued to compete at a steady pace. Despite placing in important tournaments such as the Brazilian Nationals and Pan Americans, it wasn’t until 2013 when “Little Tank” finally achieved his black belt world title.

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MMA Lab Coach and Competitor Joe Murphy

By Danny O’Donnell 

If you’ve had the opportunity to watch Joe Murphy of The MMA Lab compete, you’d likely conclude that’s he’s been a guard player for the majority of his grappling career. He often uses his long frame to create opening for triangles, arm bars and sweeps. Although he’s been training in the Gentle Art for 8 years, his background is actually in wrestling. “I grew up in Michigan and wrestled in middle and high school. Then I joined the United States Air Force and even wrestled there for a short time. I coached high school wrestling for four seasons in Alaska before starting Jiu Jitsu at 26 years old.” Utilizing his takedown and top pressure, Joe was able to do well with most of his teammates from the start. “I took a class, learned a few moves and then rolled at the end. I balled up everybody with just wrestling and good top pressure before rolling with the instructor (who was only a purple belt at the time). He destroyed me and made it look effortless. I was hooked right then and there. The Professor was Pat Applegate and he changed my life forever. I earned my blue belt in about 6 months and then started training MMA. Before I knew it I went pro in 2010, compiling a 3-1 record with all three wins coming by first round submission.”

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