‘It’s been like a 3-year camp’: Keith Krikorian details ADCC prep, struggles, and mindset

Keith Krikorian’s road to the 2022 ADCC World Championships wasn’t an easy one.

After winning second at both Trials events for the 2019 ADCC World Championships, he earned second again at the 2021 East Coast Trials. The 10th Planet black belt then conquered arguably the deepest 66 kg. division at any Trials ever, submitting Josh Cisneros in the final to win gold in dramatic fashion at the West Coast Trials, punching his ticket to the big show.

As Krikorian closes his final preparations for the biggest tournament of his life, he spoke to Grappling Insider about a variety of topics, ranging from his struggles with self-doubt, to his epic West Coast Trials run, to a look inside his mindset ahead of the competition.

View the full interview here.

Krikorian has been one of the sport’s more active elite competitors over the past few years. He admits that his schedule has been draining.

“It’s hard to keep a consistent training schedule for the whole year… I was training for… the 2021 East Coast Trials and I didn’t make it there, so I just went right back into training. I had a bunch of comps in between, a lot of travel, whatever. Kind of, like, beat myself down before the West Coast Trials, and I didn’t really give myself a break, ya know? I think it would have been useful maybe to let myself breathe. But for the most part, I’ve been training since the last ADCC. It’s been like a three-year camp for this. At this point I am pretty beat down and exhausted.”

The week before his seven-match run at the West Coast Trials, Krikorian defeated the highly-regarded Gabriel Sousa in one of 2022’s best matches. And while it was an incredible win, the back-to-back weight cuts paid their toll on Krikorian’s body.

“I ballooned back up to 165… I went through all the stress of travel and the match and the weight cut and then ballooned back up in weight and had to cut like 20 pounds in a week to 145 for the Trials… I didn’t even go to Vegas until the night before and that was a terrible mistake because my flight got delay, delayed, then canceled, then not canceled. And then I didn’t get in until about 3 AM… I cut 12 the day before… I cut 6 before I left for the airport. And then 6 when I got to Vegas at like 3 AM in this hot ass sauna, and I felt like shit, and I get there, and I barely make weight.”

Going into Trials on the heels of the Sousa win and three consecutive silver medals, Krikorian was sure that he would win gold this time out. Ahead of the ADCC World Championships, though, he sees himself as an underdog.

“I didn’t really care about anything that was happening around me, I was just focused… Nothing was gonna stop me from going and getting to that tournament, getting down in weight, winning that tournament. Nothing was gonna stop me… That’s not an easy mindset to get into, right? That’s a tough spot to be in, when you’re just in the zone and nothing can stop you… I‘ve not just been working towards this for this camp, this has been forever… I’ve been working just as hard if not harder than anyone since I started this… 

I’m not willing to just roll over and give up my turn at this. I’m gonna do whatever I can and know that in theory I have as good a shot as anyone. Maybe people don’t believe that. And maybe in my heart of hearts I don’t necessarily believe that, but I know it’s true. There’s always a way to win everything.”

Even as an underdog, Krikorian can see himself winning ADCC gold. The key, he says, is belief in that possibility.

“It is possible. I have to believe in that possibility… Maybe a performance or a mental coach would tell me something differently. But I can’t just tell myself you’re gonna win. That seems like I’d be putting too much pressure on myself for a very statistically low chance thing. I feel like that’s maybe not the right thing to tell myself. But I feel like if I tell myself to just go for it, full send and do as best as I can and see what happens. I can do that. I can throw myself at these guys and see what happens. I think there is a world where I win this tournament, f*** yeah there is. I don’t know if it’s the most likely thing but it can happen for any of us and I have to believe in that.”

Win or lose, Krikorian is ultimately focused on performing his best.

“There’s nothing on earth I want more than to do well at this tournament. Literally all that I ever think about is me winning, me doing well at this tournament. Even just losing a really competitive match. All I f****** want to do is do well at ADCC. That’s always been my goal and if I can just do well, whatever that it is. I don’t know what that necessarily looks like but if I can do well I’ll sleep OK.”

How to watch: The ADCC World Championships take place on September 17-18 and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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