By Tom Bell
Arya Esfandmaz has declared he intends on showing the world what both he and the UK is capable of on the competition mats when he flies out to Abu Dhabi next month to compete in the World Pro Jiu Jitsu Championship.
Esfandmaz won an all expenses paid trip to compete in the prestigious event after taking gold at the British National Pro Jiu Jitsu Championships in Birmingham, securing the $8000 package in the male +95kg division, which was a mix of black and brown belts. Arya also took bronze in the brown/black absolute.
The Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues brown belt coaches and trains out of Gracie Barra Knightsbridge and is known for his acrobatic, entertaining style, with many trademark flying submissions on his competitive resume.
With a background in Judo, training at the famed Budokwai from a young age, Esfandmaz has declared he wants to fly the British flag and show what the UK has to offer on a world stage.
Speaking to Jiu Jitsu Style, he said:
“The tournament was really nice for me, I got to achieve one of my dreams in fighting black belts, as I always wanted to test myself at that level. I did well, I got lucky, and I ended up taking gold so it shows great improvement in myself.
“I also want to give a shout out to British BJJ because man, we had some good guys there like Bradley Hill and Viking Wong – they were very unlucky. They both drew Alan ‘Finfou’ Nascimento, so yeah, the UK smashed pretty much the whole thing and it showed that BJJ is improving a lot in the UK and it’s really nice to see. I couldn’t be more happy man. I just want to fly out there, do my best and bring home some medals.”
Speaking passionately after training, the brown belt nostalgically spoke of early Jiu Jitsu in the UK and believes the country has an immense talent pool that we should be proud of compared to larger nations. He intends to show what the UK is capable of.
“I want to fly the flag, of course I do,” says Arya. “I want to show that we aren’t some random small island that only likes to drink tea, we’re quite handy on the mats too.
“It’s funny, I remember back in my Judo days, I walked past Roger Gracie’s first gym and it was like a garage man, it was really run down and that was only like ten, fifteen years ago and you look at his academy now.
“It shows how much we’ve improved and it shows how respected we are and I think we’re top in Europe man, yeah, you have some Scandinavian countries coming through but I think we can smash it and to help fly that flag is something I want.”
Those familiar with the competitive circuit will know of the influx of Scandinavian talent Esfandmaz talks of, with the likes of Sebastian Brosche, winner of the Toukon Challenge Brown Belt Grand Prix and Eiren Cathrine Nygren who took double gold at brown belt at this year’s Europeans.
“California alone is bigger than the UK,” explains Arya. “If you look at some Californian academies, they have nice facilities, loads of training space and lots of training partners.”
The entire UK holds a population of around 64 million people over a total area of 243, 610km2, however the Jiu Jitsu hotbed of California alone is home to 38 million over an area of 423, 970km2. You can fit the UK into the US around 38 times and there are just short of five Americans to every Brit.
“Man, in London, if you try and find some space to open an academy it’s like, super hard,” says Arya. “People want space, people want apartments, they don’t want to sell you space to put some mats down. It’s hard to find the perfect training space here, so we need to appreciate our talent, look at the things that are actually against us and see how we’ve done – it’s really cool.”
Esfandmaz now looks forward to hard training with his master, Lagarto, and his partners at Gracie Barra Knightsbridge ahead of making his trip to the United Arab Emirates and is excited about the opportunity ahead of him.
“I always watched Abu Dhabi’s championships, like, it is super professional,” states Arya. “The fighters get a proper walkout, you even get a body guard to escort you. It’s televised too, so that’s an opportunity that’s awesome to have, you know.
“It’s a really big opportunity and I’m lucky enough to go into it training under Lagarto and Paul Hartley, as well as everyone else at Gracie Barra Knightsbridge. Man, I’ve been waiting and I’ve been training my ass off and now I’m getting that confidence to go out there and be the best I can. Although Lagarto has called me out about doing cool moves, he wants me to win above everything else.
“I’m like ‘Lagarto! I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna flying armbar this guy’, but he’s like ‘Arya! Go for the win first!’ so I’m going to do everything I can to take this opportunity for myself and for the UK.”
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