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.

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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Marcio Andre teaches “X” Guard Pass

The Arizona BJJ Scene keeps getting stronger by the day! Another high level competitor has moved to the valley in 2017 to keep elevating the level even more in Arizona. Marcio Andre, Black Belt from Fabio Andrade (Nova Uniao) is currently living in Tempe. Here are some of his main accomplishments:

  • 4x Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion (All belts)
  • 4x IBJJF World Champion (Blue,2x purple & brown). Runner up at the 2016 IBJJF Worlds Black Belt division.
  • 2016 IBJJF Worlds No-Gi Black Belt
In this video Marcio teaches an “X” guard pass in Portuguese and English 🙂 Check it out!

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Flavio Almeida on Motivation, Competition, and Gracie Barra in Arizona

By Danny O’Donnell

AZSBJJF supporter, Professor Flavio Almeida of Gracie Barra, comes from a rich Jiu Jitsu lineage. Having earned his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr., one of the founders of Gracie Barra, Flavio has always had the representation of his team at the forefront of his mind. Therefore, it is no surprise to see Flavio’s active involvement in coaching and motivating his students. “I believe motivation is the starting point of achievement. Most people think motivation is something we have or we do not. Every instructor should take upon himself the role of a teacher and the role of a motivator. We put too much energy into teaching how to fight and not enough energy into teaching people why to fight.”

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Izzy Juarez on the Pros and Cons of Owning a Jiu Jitsu Academy

Many Jiu Jitsu practitioners dream of one day owning their own academy. While this is certainly a praiseworthy goal, it is important to recognize various business considerations before embarking on this journey. It is often said that “location is everything” and in terms of attracting students, there is some truth to this for Jiu Jitsu academies.

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Gordon Kimura Interview

Inverse Jiu Jitsu owner and head instructor Gordon Kimura was first introduced to Jiu Jitsu while enlisted in the Air Force. A friend of his had trained in Hilo, HI and showed Gordon a series of moves when they had down time. “We were mechanics working on F-15 fighter aircraft together in Florida, and in between jobs he would show me basic submissions like keylocks, kimuras, and RNCs.” I was born and raised in Honolulu, HI and currently I reside in Tucson, AZ.”

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Getting to Know Tucson BJJ’s Daniel Grippaudo

Daniel Grippaudo is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Demetrious Ramos. Having trained since 2007, Daniel trained amidst one of the biggest periods of growth for the sport in the U.S.

“I was always interested in martial arts growing up, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I heard of Jiu Jitsu. I saw the Ultimate Fighter season one and Jiu Jitsu was made out to be this super weapon that could win any fight. I told myself if I ever got into martial arts it would be BJJ.” During this time many Jiu Jitsu schools were significantly smaller than nowadays, so those who showed commitment to the art often got involved with teaching early on in their development. “I teach Jiu Jitsu as well. I started helping with the kids’ class as a white belt, but I started teaching as a blue when I was asked to.”

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