Among the class of newly-promoted black belts at the 2021 IBJJF Worlds was 23-year old Art of Jiu-Jitsu product Iasmim Casser. Just four years after walking into Art of Jiu-Jitsu as a white belt, Casser is now poised to make waves, not only in the black belt competition scene, but also in MMA.
Recently, Casser appeared on the Open Guardcast and spoke about her path to jiu-jitsu from striking and MMA, training with the Mendes brothers, Mackenzie Dern, and Jason Perillo, and her aspirations in both jiu-jitsu and MMA.
Casser’s first martial art was striking. She found her passion for jiu-jitsu as she prepared for a career in MMA.
I didn’t expect to love jiu-jitsu the way I ended up loving it. Whenever professor Gui [Mendes] presented the idea of me becoming a jiu-jitsu competitor, to learn grappling, to be known in jiu-jitsu, it was to make my path in MMA a little shorter, a little smarter and a little smoother. It was not focused on jiu-jitsu. That’s how he got me into jiu-jitsu. He kind of tricked me into falling into a trap that now I’m in love with jiu-jitsu, and it wasn’t the goal, you know? It was not the goal ever, it was always MMA. It was always about making everything better for MMA… Because I started with striking, jiu-jitsu seems so peaceful to me.
Casser did not come from privilege. She has used her hard-scrabble upbringing as motivation during difficult moments.
My childhood and ever since I left home, it was always a fight, it was a fight to survive. So at that moment when the ref said fight [in her first Muay Thai bout] my instinct came from that experience. From being, even in an early age, fighting to survive. But that’s what I pull from within to be able to go through with it. And I feel like I only woke up from that moment when the ref stopped the fight.
Initially, Casser didn’t plan to pursue jiu-jitsu to the extent she has.
At first I didn’t really like it as much as I do now. I would do more no-gi and focus on striking. I considered myself a striker. The jiu-jitsu and grappling was only to defend myself in case someone took me down.
Casser sports a 1-0 amateur MMA record and a 1-0 professional MMA record. And while her MMA career has been on hold for several years, she is surrounding herself with the best possible coaches and training partners, including Mackenzie Dern and Jason Perillo (a coach to numerous UFC champions, including BJ Penn, Michael Bisping, and Luke Rockhold).
If you ask me who are the people you admire the most in the martial arts, in jiu-jitsu i would say the Mendes bros for sure… if you ask me who you want to be your coach for MMA, I would say Jason Perillo, and I train with Jason Perillo. Starting jiu-jitsu I remember watching Mackenzie [Dern] a lot, watching her highlights and everything… Now I’m around Mackenzie every day training with her in MMA, too. So she inspired me to do the jiu-jitsu path for MMA, as well. Watching her winning worlds in the black belt then going to MMA, using jiu-jitsu as something that made her MMA career better, putting her out there way faster than anyone would if you had just started from MMA. When yo’re already known in another sport, it’s much easier to get there and get signed with a great promotion.
Casser’s primary goal right now is to win a black belt world title. After that, she plans to pursue MMA as a well-rounded fighter.
Getting to my main goal in jiu-jitsu which is being a black belt world champion, I feel it is very close now. My focus will go back to MMA and I’m going to get back to competing at MMA…. I want my game not to have any gaps at all.